London hasn’t degenerated into pitched battle between motorists and cyclists as in Toronto.
But the warning signs are there.
A couple of weeks ago the chairman of one of London’s biggest taxi firms was critical of cyclists in comments that were widely reported.
“The rest of us occupying this road space have had to undergo extensive training. We are sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax,” said John Griffin of Addison Lee. “It is time for us to say to cyclists: ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up.’”
Pay for training and a license to be able to jump on your bike whenever you fancy? It doesn’t sound likely.
Griffin ruffled more than a few feathers with this and other comments on the rights of London cyclists to be on the streets.
Once his comments had filtered out and inspired some online vitriol, he later conceded the tone of the article “was perhaps a little too inflammatory.” Perhaps. But does he also have a point?
Cycling in London these days can be a little crazy. I lived in London for two years from 2000-2001 and returned in 2009.
The number of cyclists on the road now compared to 10 years ago seems vast. Add to that the advent of Boris Bikes – those clunky machines brought in by current mayor Boris Johnson so people can hop-on and hop-off hired bikes throughout central London – and we’re talking a lot of potential for frustration, road rage and – worst of all – accidents.
And let’s be blunt. Many cyclists aren’t doing themselves or the cause of cycling any favors.
I have a half hour cycle commute each way to work and what I see on a daily basis is often worrying at best, life-threatening at worst.
Cyclists run red lights, often at busy intersections. They pull out into roads whenever they want. Some are on their cell phones.
I hardly ever see cyclists look over their shoulders before they pull out and around other cyclists. Many don’t stop at marked crosswalks where pedestrians have right of way. It must push both drivers and pedestrians to the brink at times.
When riders continuously ignore the basic principles of road safety, things are going to get testy.
As Addison Lee’s Griffiths said, “both cyclists and motorists have a responsibility to use the roads safely.”