The Sunday Politics show had a piece about 'Going Dutch' yesterday (10 June). It featured an interview with Jacques Wallage, the former mayor of Groningen, and a debate in the studio featuring LCC's Mustafa Arif and motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. So far, so predictable - the BBC rather lazily setting up a hackneyed cyclists-vs-motorists dogfight. It didn't work. Sir Stirling was rather ill-prepared - although clearly sceptical about the idea of segregated bike lanes, the most incisive comment he could offer was "I think it's a great idea but I don't think it's feasible...in London the density of vehicles is higher than anywhere else." No-one pointed out that traffic density and congestion is a problem that can be solved by getting people out of cars and onto bikes, and one reason the problem exists is because people don't see cycling as a safe alternative to car travel. As the reporter in Groningen put it, "because so many people have been put off driving, in the suburbs the traffic flows incredibly well...Groningen [is] easy to drive, beautiful to cycle." Mmmm. Traffic flow. Where have we heard that before? I wonder if TfL were watching?
Sir Stirling's second gambit was "they should start teaching children lane discipline, that sort of thing...in London, there are bicycles all over the place". At this point he gestured to illustrate a weaving bike. How about a lane discipline course for children, on the Vauxhall Gyratory perhaps?
A little more worrying for campaigners is the lack of commitment by the politicians in charge. Bob Neill, a Local Government minister, was also on the show, and when asked if there should be more segregation between bikes and motors, said "I think that's a question of horses for courses...different situations will apply in the centre of London...in Westminster say, from in my patch in Bromley...I'm very keen to see more people cycling." He went on to enthuse about how much investment Boris has put into cycling, and how he's a regular cyclist himself. Neill was allowed to wriggle free of the debate about safety. Yeah yeah, everyone loves cycling. The point is that the investments in cycling that Boris has made in the past have done very little to improve safety, because he's put traffic flow as a higher priority. Has that actually changed?