The Millitant Cyclist’s War
Living in London I mutated into a militant cyclist. Cycling turned into biking. Never stop at red lights. Stay in the middle of the road when you don’t want someone to overtake you. Get a pollution mask (so you look scary). Bike faster. Undercut cars. Critical mass whatever the weather.
I only realised that I had been militarised when I moved to Munich, Germany. It was several weeks before I accustomised my self to not having to fight with the car. I still skip lights but I do not need to undercut cars, I do not need a pollution mask, I am no longer even on the road but in a separate bike path. Militancy turned into quiet conformism.
How did the Germans tame this militant beast. Easy, they gave me the space that I had tried to take by force in London. Dedicated bike paths that are separate from the road by two metres and priority to cyclists instead of the car. In Germany it is against the law to bike on the road when there is a bike path. In the USA it is the bike that is simply banned from the street. In England the bike path is the road and such a law would be laughed out of parliament. I still bike fast, but now I am a lot safer. When will this peace come to England?
In cooperation with Barclays bank the Mayor of London is “building” bike path superhighways from outer London to central London. They are not enough. They are not being “built” but being squeezed onto the road with cars. 1.5 metre space is not enough when there is a need for overtaking and it is still a part of the road. We need dedicated bike paths where the motorised traffic is not allowed and we need not just one or two punching out into the suburbs but many so that people actually use them. Without the separation of these traffic forms, cycling will remain a rather limited hobby of the brave and probably reckless.
A “useful” site from Transport for London. How can anybody use this to plan a journey?! Useless information and wasted investment.
In England, as in the USA, the car is still king and this needs to be changed. By changing the priorities more people will get on their bikes: reducing pollution, reducing fatalities, reducing traffic and making nicer places to live. It is not all gloom. London has the fastest growing use of bikes across Europe. However from almost insignificant 2% of Journeys in London to the 30% of Journeys in the Capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, will take time. Growth also needs continued and expanding investment in cycling.
But also without a break from the ideology, that roads are for cars, the UK/USA numbers will continue to linger at the bottom of the league. Critical Mass is therefore likely to continue to be a sad monthly reminder of how London and San Francisco could be. It is also something that will not take off in continental Europe because this a guerilla war tactic. The militants in continetal Europe have long been disarmed by a fair inclusion in the space of the city.
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