Cyclists – Don’t be here, and don’t be there. Just don’t be.*

Only 1-2% of trips in London are made by bicycle. In a perverse way, I can find a great deal of hope in those numbers, because it tells me that a large number of people want to cycle, despite the very best efforts of the authorities to stop them.

Here is a sign you can find beside a road in Wandsworth.


NO CYCLING ON THE PAVEMENT. IT IS AN OFFENCE TO CYCLE ON THE PAVEMENT. MAXIMUM PENALTY £500. 

Fair enough. £500 is a little steep, you might think – more than five times as much as you might get for killing a cyclist, and leaving the scene of the accident, for instance – but why would you cycle on the pavement when there’s probably a fantastic road to cycle on, right beside the sign?

Oh.

Welcome to the urban motorway that is the A214, as it passes through Wandsworth. This three-lane road is where you are expected to cycle. Not on the pavement.

In the interests of authenticity (and legality), I did cycle northbound from this sign, on this road, for a little distance – in fact, as far as here, where my testicles retracted into my body cavity –

Whereupon I opted out of this madness, and took the sliproad.

Here are some videos of what happens if you attempt to cycle through this underpass, from youtube user SkrzypczykBass, who I notice has an enviable turn of speed, and is rather braver than me –

I am sure you will agree that I missed out on a fantastic and life-affirming experience.

Above is the only other cyclist I saw during the ten minutes I spent on this road, who chose to risk a £500 fine (notice he is cycling past an identical warning sign) rather than use the road. I don’t blame him.

I am not sure whether the authority that erected the sign telling cyclists to keep off the pavement here really thinks that they ought to be on this three-lane road, with its sliproads, underpasses, and speeding drivers. Probably not. I expect the thought crossed their mind that very few cyclists would actually be brave enough to use it, and that was probably why enough of them were using the pavement to warrant the sign in the first place. They might have been dimly aware that they were leaving cyclists with nowhere to go. Or they were only concerned with stopping cycling on the pavement. Either way, it is obvious they just didn’t care.

And so cycling has been, and is being, killed as a mode of practical urban transport because of environments like this. I must stress that the location I took these photographs is not in the back of beyond – it’s only about 500 yards from one of Boris’ much trumpeted Cycling Superhighways, CS8, which passes an equally hostile roundabout just to the north of here (which I plan to write about shortly). Equally, it’s only about 3 miles from the Westfield shopping centre, a perfectly possible distance for people to cycle from south London, to have some lunch, and do some shopping. But this is the environment that stands in their way.

If London is ever going to become a “Cycling City” – in reality, rather than just in aspirational hype – then it is going to have to be possible for people to negotiate roads like this on a bicycle. And I mean ordinary people – not people like SkrzypczykBass and me, who will always be a minority.

There is an absurd amount of space here. Can we please let people have the option of using some of it on bicycles?

*My apologies to Amos Oz. I am, of course, in no way drawing any equivalence between the fate of Jews in the 20th century, and cyclists in London – but the phrase, taken in isolation, was too apposite to resist

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16 Responses to Cyclists – Don’t be here, and don’t be there. Just don’t be.*

  1. Well-put. Completely true. And it is the same all over London. The design of that road is exactly like that of the Neasden underpass in Brent, to which there is no legal alternative for cyclists. That piece of infrastructure totally cuts the Borough of Brent in half for cycling.

    As I’ve said before, what TfL want is a Cycling Revolution without the inconvenience of cyclists.

    David
    Vole O’Speed

  2. @tomjennings says:

    I think we should start a guerilla bike lane group. Let’s go down Wandsworth tonight and paint half that pavement Barclays blue.

    PS: In Wandsworth’s defence, I do really like that Wandle River cycleway that cuts down to Tooting, cutting out much of the hideous A24…

  3. Great post, highlighting an absurd situation which has a really straight-forward solution.

  4. Sandro says:

    I have to agree with this post, I live in Wandsworth and sometimes cycle through the Wandsworth round about, and the whole thing is a cyclist nightmare.

    The council have made some attempt at putting up some cycle lanes around the round about area, but they have put no thought into it what so ever. They are in small stretches and lead you nowhere, or at best leave you going the wrong way up a one way system.

  5. Azor_rider says:

    That’s an unfriendly urban motorway – best left to motorised traffic. I think the key to making London a better cycling city is to make minor roads more cycle friendly. For instance, Heathfield Road runs parallel to A214 Trinity Road which would be a more attractive route – certainly traffic will be slower, which is one of the main factors in improving subjective safety.

  6. Olivia says:

    I cycle down there pretty well every week (and used to commute down it daily). It is no fun, and I look at that wide pavement with envy each time. I resist the urge to use it … for the not very healthy reason that I don’t want Wandsworth to get the idea that by shoving cyclists on to the occasional pavement they can continue to deny us proper provision on the roads.

  7. ldnphile says:

    Yeah, I cycle this everyday on my beach cruiser. Yes, I’m the stupid girl on the ridiculous beach cruiser (complete with alligator horn). I feel alright using it northbound in the mornings as the traffic usually gets passed me (one speed = not very fast) by the time I get to the sliproad area and definitely to the underpass. But going home, is a bit scary to say the least. I just can’t pedal fast enough up that hill to feel comfortable.

    Why they can’t open up that sidewalk, which I rarely see anyone on, to cyclists is beyond my understanding. And the cycle route kicks me at least 10-15 minutes off a normal commuting time home, so it’s worth the 2 minutes of terror to go on the A214 there.

    Will pitch in for a few cans of barclay blue for a guerrilla paint job, gladly!!! Let me know what time!

  8. Richard Mann says:

    Those signs are illegal on the highway and should be removed. Putting them up was an offence. Report them to the Highway Authority for removal.

  9. Tipzz says:

    woot! fight the power!

  10. Martin says:

    You mised the absurd one way on pavenment shared cycle path on the one way section of Wandsworth Common West Side whch peters out into – nothing, leaving cyclists to drop down off ahigh kerb into the path of motoists driving towards you at speed due to the fact that this stretch of roadway has been ade too narrow due to the ‘needs’ of SUV owners wanting to park their oversized vehicles outside their homes and making the road too narrow fro people to use it in the way it was designed for when this part of Wandsworth was laid out in the 1880’s before Mr Karl Benz had an idea that would provide motorists with an excellent killing machine.

  11. SHAZ says:

    In the pictures above there are hardly any cars in the road. I agree that there is not nearly enough money put into proper infrastructure for cycling but there is no-one representing the interests of pedestrians.

    I walk everywhere and sometimes use public transport. In my part of London, pavement cyclists have made walking a misery where it used to be a pleasure. Most are aggressive and careless, cycling far too fast while weaving in and out of people, many of whom are elderly or very young, and everyday I see pavement cyclists who text on their phones or cycle along with no hands on the handlebars.

    I frequently see two adult men who cycle past where I live who have fishing rods strapped to their bike frames, protruding from the front about a foot.They both cycle at speed with no care at all with what is virtually a spear in front of them.

    All the pavements I am talking about are pavements and not shared space. While so many cyclists behave like this you will never get the support you need from non cyclists.

    • Good cycling provision isn’t just for current cyclists, law-abiding, considerate, or otherwise. It’s for the large numbers of people who *don’t* currently cycle, and might want to.

      Why should they – and indeed law-abiding and considerate people who currently cycle – suffer because of the actions of an inconsiderate minority? Motorists don’t get denied road improvements because of the bad driving and dangerous habits of a minority of motorists.

      And this certainly shouldn’t be a pedestrians vs. cyclists issue. I want a good environment for both groups. Look through my posts if you doubt me.

  12. Paul says:

    In reply to Shaz ; it is the lack of cycle provision where it would be appropriate that leads to idiots cycling where it certainly wouldn’t. The bigger question is “does this sort of pseudo motorway have any place in an urban setting ?”

  13. michael says:

    I loathe the A214. That’s not the worst part of it either. Its an urban motorway, where cars hit motorway speeds (and crash fairly regularly), and yet its often unavoidable on a bike.

  14. michael says:

    What’s the speed limit on it, incidentally? I’ve seen cars exceed 70mph on it fairly often, even as it allows parking on it and has choke points. Trying to get clear of a parked car doorzone, or pass a pedestrian island while cars are coming up behind potentially at motorway speeds is quite scary.

  15. Andrew L says:

    What makes it worse is the amount of space clearly available to make a decent cycle path, separate from the road, and the pavement. It’s not difficult. It wouldn’t even be particularly costly. But if it was there then some car drivers might think, that looks like a nice way to get to work / school / shops every day and actually increase that number at the top of the post higher than 1-2%…

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