Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Norman Baker is telling Londoners to ‘travel differently’ during next year’s Olympics, by which he means walking and cycling (and in London, cycling really is different). Why this sudden love affair with sustainable transport? The tubes and trains will be chock full of sports fans. The roads will be totally unable to cope, their capacity being reduced by the ‘Zil lanes’ which will ferry corporate sponsors and assorted 'big cheeses' and expense-account Games hangers-on from their five-star central London hotels. And of course the buses will crawling along on those super-saturated roads trying to handle the overspill from other forms of transport.

It’s a shame that this Government and its predecessor didn’t start to get the sustainable options into some sort of usable (let alone attractive) state so that asking people to use them wouldn’t come as such a shock. For the majority of people – people who can cross the road safely and drive a car, but aren’t skilled in the arcane arts of vehicular cycling - asking them to cycle to work in London is like asking them to eat cabbage soup. They may know it’s good for them but it doesn’t look very appealing and if you try it, it can leave a nasty taste in the mouth. In fact it can be so unpleasant that it can put you off for life.

So what are the Government going to do to make cycling attractive during the Olympics. Are they going to set up special ‘Olympic cycle lanes’ so that people can get through central London with confidence, knowing they aren’t going to be battling with HGVs and aggressive motorists to get round Piccadilly Circus, Parliament Square or Trafalgar Square? No, thought not. They're just going to allow the other options on the transport menu to be so unpalatable that cabbage soup is the most appealing.

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