In a letter written to Danny of the Cyclists in the City blog, Richard Tracey, the Conservative group transport spokesman on the London Assembly writes that
it is important to be clear that many Londoners do not have unlimited choice over which mode they use to travel. Whilst we strongly support those who have the choice choosing to cycle, there are those for whom cycling is not feasible. The introduction of a road user hierarchy penalises those, such as parents with young children, whose personal circumstances might be less suited to cycling.
This post is not the place to go in to much detail about the nature of the ‘road user hierarchy’ debate (for background, see here, here, or here) but, in essence, the Conservatives believe that measures to prioritize cycling, walking and public transport in London, over the use of the private motor vehicle, are wrong. Their view implies that the current state of London’s roads is perfectly fine, thanks, and that all road users – whatever their mode – currently have an equal bite of the transport cherry. To ‘penalise’ or ‘hobble’ drivers (Tracey’s own words) is wrong, because they are just going from A to B, like everyone else.
But Richard Tracey has now, apparently, brought out another argument against the introduction of a road user hierarchy. It’s that, for many Londoners, ‘cycling is not feasible’ – so some people will be unfairly penalized if cycling is prioritized as a transport mode.
But why is cycling ‘not feasible’ for many Londoners? Why do some Londoners not have the choice, as Mr Tracey’s letter puts it?
According to Mr Tracey, it’s because of ‘personal circumstances’ – which he chooses not to define.
But I can think of a better reason why cycling is ‘not feasible’ for many Londoners.
Four lanes of vehicles queuing at the lights. A ludicrously tiny cycle lane that is nothing more than an invitation to a serious injury should you get caught in the wrong place as traffic starts moving. Fortunately, in this case, it is being blocked by a massive articulated lorry.
This is part of “Cycle Superhighway 8” – the network that is apparently bringing about a “cycling revolution.” (The junction in question – where Millbank meets Vauxhall Bridge Road – can be seen at about the 0:25 mark in this video).
Elsewhere in Mr Tracey’s letter, he trumpets the success of these very same ‘Superhighways’ as one of the ways to get people cycling –
By measures such as the introduction of Boris Bikes, Cycle Superhighways and an increase in the provision of cycle parking, more Londoners are cycling than ever before. There is certainly more that can be done. However none of these improvements has come about via a policy of deliberately hobbling other road users. Rather, they have been successful by making it easier and more convenient for people to choose to cycle.
I’m not quite sure how the blue paint that disappears before this junction, and reappears after it, in any way makes it ‘easier and more convenient’ for people to cycle along this stretch of the Thames – provision for cyclists obviously falls far behind ‘stacking‘ in TfL’s priorities. But that’s all that is on offer, as far as Mr Tracey is concerned.
we believe that the best approach is largely to allow the facts and the many advantages of cycling to speak for themselves.
Those advantages being –
Cycling to work is cheaper than any other option bar walking, it will often be quicker than the alternatives and it has the benefit of being fantastic exercise. Our view is that the more people consider the various alternatives in those terms, the more people will conclude that cycling is the best way to travel in London .
‘Cheap’ and ‘fantastic exercise’, indeed. But not ‘pleasant’ or ‘safe’.
‘Parents with young children’ are forced to use cars on London’s roads not because of Mr Tracey’s ill-defined ‘personal circumstances’, but because they would be completely insane to let their children cycle on them. They have to drive their children to school because they don’t want to see them getting run over on a bicycle (this is something the Conservative member for Transport for West Sussex is quite happy to admit).
That is why cycling is not feasible for many Londoners.
Richard Tracey knows this, of course. He knows that no parent is going to let their child cycle through junctions like the one in the picture above. Yet he has the bare-faced cheek to employ the car-dependence of Londoners – a car-dependence that is created by the hostility of this kind of street environment to vulnerable road users, particularly young children – as a reason to maintain the status quo.
But it is your party that wants to maintain that car dependence, Mr Tracey. Cycling is ‘not feasible’ because of your policies.
If people are given the choice between cycling and driving a great many people will choose the former.
How about giving those people a genuine choice, Mr Tracey?
A recent scene from a country not very far away, where parents feel happy to let young children ride bikes on busy city streets