It was great seeing so many and such a wide range of people cycling during lockdown. Cycling in London was growing rapidly before, it really grew during the crisis, but now there’s a worry that progress could go backwards as London fills with cars from people avoiding public transport.
I rode to work before the pandemic, and continued during it. During and after the lockdowns, I noticed “pop-up” cycle tracks and a lack of traffic meant more parents were riding with children to school instead of driving them.
Many of the trial schemes delivered in north London have brought loads of new people cycling. These were built with temporary infrastructure using experimental traffic orders (ETOs) in lockdown. And those temporary materials resulted in hugely significant changes in travel in a faster time than a normal planning cycle of years would anticipate.
Across London we’ve seen decades’ worth of progress on cycling within a year – which is vital if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis.
I’d like us to keep the changes we made in lockdown and act on them as a foundation to ask what are our streets and cities for? I live in a borough where less than a third of households have cars.
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Even for those who drive, more people walking and cycling means less congestion, less pollution and a fitter population that’s less of a burden on the NHS, freeing up resources to cater for those who need healthcare.
More cycling infrastructure is also inclusive of everyone who cannot afford a car and just wants to get about safely. The status quo only caters for motorists or fit, fast cyclists like me.
New schemes can be contentious, and there can be opposition even as existing trials are consulted on to be permanent (ETOs last for only 18 months). But these schemes work and are needed for us all. So it’s good to see our councils pushing ahead with plans.
I started a new job recently and get asked for bike tips, which is great. But I don’t want what I’ve seen from some colleagues who cycled during lockdown then stopped “because of all the cars” to become the norm.
Remember, if you don’t build safe infrastructure, you only get fast road warriors using polluted roads.
Eugene Regis is from Camden Cyclists.
– Credit: Eugene Regis