Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bike Club

Bike Club has launched. This is a package of training, incentives, competitions and freebies to try to get more kids cycling.

But there is no new infrastructure, and no requirement on government or local authorities to provide any.

The fundamental reason that kids don't cycle is, it is perceived as dangerous. That's because, in large measure, it is dangerous.

I live in the middle of the London Borough of Merton in a relatively quiet residential neighbourhood, where a lot of families live. Exactly the kind of place where kids should be able to cycle safely. But there are no safe cycle routes to, well, pretty much anywhere. To get to the town centre, either of the two local swimming pools, the library, Wimbledon Common, even the local schools, there are no cycle routes worthy of the name. What cycle routes there are, are simply blue signs. No mandatory cycle lanes, no segregated cycle lanes, no cycle paths. There are one or two sections of shared footpath, but to get to them you need to go on roads. Many of the roads are relatively quiet, the area has a 20MPH limit and some speed humps. But the 20 MPH limit is not enforced and there enough busy roads where traffic volumes and speeds are high enough for it to be dangerous. There are too many junctions that are dangerous. Most drivers are careful and considerate when there are kids on bikes around. But there are enough speeding idiots on hand-held mobile phones to spoil the party.

In other words, no-one at Merton Council has sat down and thought about where people would cycle to, and provide proper routes that are, and appear to be, safe. That's why kids don't cycle. They've got nowhere to cycle to. And until that changes, all the training and marketing in the world won't be worth diddly-squat.

The really sad thing is, there is quite a lot of road space that could be turned into decent cycle infrastructure without needing to fight with residents. Many houses have driveways and garages, so the demand for onroad parking is not as great as it is in many neighbourhoods. But the council has been through Labour and Tory hands, and very little changes. I can't think of much that's new in the last ten years in terms of cycle infrastructure worthy of the name.

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