The sad reality of cycling in London

As a cyclist living in London I’ve watched the last few days of Olympic competition with great interest. Before the track events even started Team GB knocked up an impressive performance in both the road race and time trial events, culminating with Bradley Wiggins’s impressive win at Hampton Court yesterday.

But we were all brought back down to earth following the tragic news from last night of the young man who was killed last night on one of the roads around the Olympic park.

I first heard the news this morning, while driving into work. The reality was illustrated to me a mile or so further down the road.

Driving up the triple-lane westbound A4 from the Chiswick roundabout, I saw a cyclist on the road a hundred yards or so in front of me. I was in the nearside lane, he was moving out towards the offside lane to get out of the two other lanes (photo) which lead onto the M4 elevated section.

Shortly after he did so two cars overtook me, and passed him simultaneously, one overtaking him in the offside lane, the other undertaking in the middle lane. He was left sandwiched between them, cycling along the white line dividing the two lanes.

I felt for the guy. Unfortunately it seems indicative of the sort of behaviour one often sees on the road, with drivers treating cyclists as if they were invisible. Thankfully he was alright.

Now, you might think ‘why was he cycling in the road?’. The pavement alongside the westbound carriageway is a good few metres wide (unusually so for London), with a two-cycle path running down its length, which nicely bypasses the sliproad leading up onto the motorway by skirting around and underneath it.

The problem is the state of the thing. Bus stops, lamp posts and other street furniture sit right alongside it and even straddle it in some cases. Side roads cut across it with no apparent right of way for cyclists proceeding along it. Worse of all, the surface is full of so many bumps and potholes it’s worse than the surface of the moon.

Unless you have a good mountain bike you’re better in the road. That is the sad truth behind the cycle infrastructure that we do have, that even where it does exist you are often better off ignoring it and cycling down a tree-lane dual carriageway with traffic coming past you at 40mph.

I agree with Bradley Wiggins that both motorists and cyclists need to give more consideration of each other. But more importantly we need to rid ourselves of this 1950s vision of urban planning that the car is king and start putting cyclists on a more equal footing. Only then will we start to see fewer deaths and injuries on our roads.

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