Boris's bike escape shows what cyclists put up with
Boris Johnson’s brush with a near-death accident on his bike in London’s Limehouse district (see video below) throws into sharp relief the experience we cyclists endure every working day.
I am, like Boris, a jobbing cyclist. I use the machine every working day of my life – to, from, and at work. Several times a week something happens that perhaps a second or two later, or a metre or so closer, might have killed me.
Mayor Johnson was with a team on bikes looking for suitable roads to carry new separated cycle lanes. A scrap lorry passed the group and, as it mounted a hump (sleeping policemen, designed to slow traffic), the back doors flew open, smashed into a parked car and dragged it along the street. The mayor and his team escaped unscathed.
What interests me is the reality that these near-death experiences for cyclists have actually reduced down the years. I used to have them every day – now, as I say, it is several times a week.
I was at a launch for MPs of CTC’s Safety in Numbers campaign in the House of Commons the other day. They produced statistics which show that cycling in London since 2000 has increased by 91 per cent and that fatalities have fallen by 33 per cent.
But facilities are still awful. Separated cycle lanes are rare and parking hoops, whilst more prevalent, are completely absent from Whitehall. I retain my Commons pass more for parking my bike than for attending any debate.
If you want to visit any ministry in Whitehall, there is nowhere to park a bike, and if you try, Cannon Row police either blow it up or smash the lock and cart it off to the cells (it has happened to me more than once).
The very fact that the seat of government remains so actively hostile to bikes (“We’re concerned about bicycle bombs, old chap”) speaks volumes about our real attitudes to green technology. What chance reversing climate change if you can’t park your bloody bike anywhere near the seat of the government charged with trying to fix it?
How about banning all private cars from the centres of all our major cities? There are absolutely no votes to be lost by doing so. It was Ken Livingstone, in introducing the congestion charge, who discovered that fewer than 15 per cent of people living in inner London ever bring their cars into central London.
In 10 years’ time we shall look back and wonder how we ever let them in in the first place as we breeze along our car-less boulevards on electric public transport, on streets configured to give bus, bike and walking human all the space they presently dream of.