Boris’s Big Brain

You’ve got to hand it to Boris he comes up with some cracking ideas.

It is just a shame he doesn’t think them through. His latest wheeze to run a cable-car from the Greenwich peninsular to the Royal Dock.

Genius.

Only he wants it completed in time for the 2012 Olympics.

[H]is Boris bike scheme, borrowed it must be said from Paris, must have exceeded every expectation, with what seems every Londoner hiring a Boris bike – and that’s the problem. Encouraging people to abandon their cars in favour of cycling has led to an enormous rise in the number of bikes on London’s roads.

I categorize cyclists much the same as drivers – The Good; The Bad; and The Mad.

The majority fall into The Good category, but just the sheer numbers of them on London’s road, particularly in the evening rush hour, makes it impossible for them to maintain their correct positioning on the road to stay safe.

The Bad – many Boris Bike users fall into this category, clueless due to inexperience on how best to protect themselves from others on the road and their responsibilities vis-à-vis other road users. Mayoral candidate for the Green Party Jenny Jones would seem to fall into this category with her view that “taxi drivers find cyclists very challenging”, and adding “that there is a perception among taxi drivers that cyclists break the law a lot”.

A minority of cyclists have positioned themselves firmly in The Mad camp, jumping red lights; refusing to give way to pedestrians at crossings; and the Lycra Louts abusing all other road users.

To give an indication on how small is this number, The City of London Police statistics for the last three years found 66 per cent of pedestrians injured in incidents with vehicles were to blame for their own injuries and just 3 per cent were cyclists found to be at fault.

Now, I would suggest, is the time for Boris to address the problems of large numbers of cyclists on London’s roads. As with Boris Bikes ALL bikes entering the capital should be licensed with each bike carrying a small identifying number, that way The Mad minority might be encouraged to ride responsibly, and if not, it would give a means to identifying law breaking individuals that can be fined as are all other road users.

Along with the registration a simple compulsory low cost third party liability insurance scheme, giving protection for cyclists from any claims made against them.

The quid pro quo for the expanding cycling fraternity is that monies collected in fines and registration must be used to build safe cycle lanes, adequately protected from motorists. A good example of these safe cycle lanes can be found around the Bloomsbury area and are used by UCL students.

Bringing in these measures, would I believe, allow all road users to get on better.

2 thoughts on “Boris’s Big Brain”

  1. I am happy to say that I am in almost complete agreement with you on the problem of cyclists. The only disagreement might be over the numbers of cyclists to be assigned to your three categories, Good, Bad and Mad. I do not agree that most cyclists pertain to the Good category. From observation (as a pedestrian, not as a driver, which possibly gives me a more accurate view, unimpeded by vehicular blind-spots) I would say that the majority of cyclists are bad, shading into very bad, and to mad.
     
    The few truly good cyclists (defined as those who obey the road traffic laws and do not intrude on pedestrian areas) are to be admired both for their skill and for their fortitude. I use the word “fortitude” advisedly because, as a one-time cyclist, I know how cyclists are often harried and even persecuted by other road users. I myself once narrowly escaped a horrendous accident at Hendon Circus when a black cab cut across me and I escaped collision only by desperately swerving onto the pavement – I was fortunate not to hit a lamp post or any pedestrians. And the black cab driver? He made a deprecatory gesture and drove on.

    It requires knowledge and skill to use the roads safely as a cyclist and it is therefore quite wrong, when all other drivers have to be trained to drive on the road, that totally untrained cyclists can do so without restraint. I would call that “mad”.
     
    I have long said that cyclists should be licensed and insured just as other vehicle drivers are required to be. What, after all, is the difference between the driver of a low-powered motor scooter and the driver of a pedal cycle in terms of danger to other road users and themselves? It is minimal or even zero.
     
    The problem with the proposal, however, is that neither the government nor the local authorities want the administrative burden of issuing and checking licences and the police do not want the bother of checking licences and insurance. The police already turn a blind eye to cyclist misbehaviour even when it is performed right in front of them. Ask them to deal with unlicensed and uninsured cyclists and they will laugh in your face. Maybe, just as we now have Police Community Support Officers, we need a special force of traffic police to deal with the increasing bad behviour or the roads, including that of motor vehicle drivers.
     
    I agree absolutely that Boris’s policy has brought a problem of cycle congestion on our roads. I forecast that months ago. That is not all, however. The road alterations in favour of cyclists, such as the infamous blue cycle lanes, are causing congestion and frustration by blocking and slowing motor traffic. Concessions on road rules given to cyclists are adding to this because while they are problematic enough in themselves, they also encourage cyclists to take still more liberties. All in all, the majority of cyclists tend to regard themselves as a special category of road user, exempt from the normal rules and regulations. It will be very difficult to pull back from this position and induce in them the required discipline.
     
    As a pedestrian, I am often harassed by cyclists on shared surfaces such as tow paths and even on surfaces where they are not supposed to be, such as pavements and pedestrian crossings. I don’t know how long we shall have to wait before this finally becomes recognized as a problem by the authorities. At the moment, they are doing their best to ignore it.
     
    Perhaps if the motoring organizations and the black cab drivers’ associations were to start a campaign of complaint, things would begin to move. Without this, I see little hope of an improvement in the foreseeable future.

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    1. It’s hardly surprising that for once you are in agreement with me, it really is just common sense to anybody who travels in London that bikes need some kind of regulation.

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