I have just started cycling a longer and more inconvenient route across London. It consists of being threatened and squashed to the curb by cars, motorbikes, buses, taxis and most alarmingly – big smokey lorries. As I wait for the adrenalin to wear off after I arrive at my destination, I am thankful that made it there alive again . My route largely consists of cycling along the top of Hyde Park and through the leafy streets of West London. It sounds quite nice in theory really, however there are no bike paths and lots of insane drivers. Many people, especially my family have told me that cycling in London is crazy and ridiculous. All I can say is that I cannot afford public transport, I don’t have the money and I don’t have the time to wait for a horrifically crowded bus or train that may or may not be late. The experience of public transport is so unpleasant and expensive that risking my life daily seems like a favourable and convenient option.
Having partly grown up in Germany I know that cycling does not need to be a life threatening experience. When I look at London with all it’s problems of chaotic and crowded transport options, congestion and air pollution. I simply cannot believe that cycling is not being welcomed and promoted as a possible solution to alleviating these problems. When I talk to many Londoners they say that they would love to cycle but they are simply to scared. I don’t blame them. It took me 3 years to pluck up the courage to cycle in London and I started slowly. I began cycling only in the suburban areas on cycle super highways close to where I lived at the time. I gradually progressed to cycling in East london where I moved to. I then found myself with no money and was forced to cycle everywhere as I preferred to spend the little cash I had on food.
The mayoral election seems give Londoners a perfect opportunity to pressure the candidates for change in road safety. For me the daily fear for my life because of the unneccessarily terrible conditions for cyclists in London. A city dominated by cars, when the majority of Londoners don’t even own one. They have an adverse effect on air quality, noise and living standards. Road safety is not just an issue for people with a bike, it is an issue for pedestrians especially children, communities and our health. When politicians talk about crime, they should also consider those injured or killed as a result of badly designed roads and ineffective transport policies. If the candidates can address road safety as an important issue, cycling conditions could be improved by promoting better planning and more cycle paths. Encouraging more Londoners to cycle could be such a positive thing in many different ways, but primarily cycling gives people an independence in such a large city that other modes of transport do not.
To campaign for safer streets visit Londoners On Bikes and follow them on Twitter @LondonrsOnBikes