Monday, 9 August 2010

Get the Infrastructure Right Before Introducing 'Green' Cycle Hire Schemes

Before we argue whether or not Johnson should be making handcycles available to disabled, or other, London cyclists we need to address the current perilous state of our pavements.

There are parts of London I can no longer safely push my wheelchair because bicycles are taking over. As our public transport system becomes more expensive and less reliable more people are taking to two-wheels. This should be heartening leading to less motorised vehicles clogging up our roads and lungs.

If the migration was from the car to the bicycle we’d definitely see a greater greening of London. However, the largest migration is from public transport to the bicycle; many of whom will have abandoned a hit-and-miss and expensive tube system. Thus, we’re experiencing a greater volume of bicycles coming into a system unable to cope.

Just as with schemes such as Canary Wharf that opened some years ago without a proper public transport infrastructure in place; so Johnson has rolled out a cycle hire scheme without first ensuring there is an infrastructure to support it.

Too many cyclists choose to use pavements (I’m not referring to cycle paths) illegally; when asked why some will admit it is to avoid a one-way system; others that it meant they didn’t wait at a red light; but, most will admit that they find the roads too dangerous.

Thus, as cycling increases so our pavements will be invaded more and more. The two groups who will suffer from this are mobility impaired disabled pedestrians (I include manual wheelies in this category) and infirm elderly people.

When a cycle is bearing down on you at speeds of 10-12 mph it is difficult for someone with a mobility impairment to take evasive action – indeed, it is difficult if the speed is a mere 4 mph. Over the years, as a walking ped, I’ve been hit six times by cyclists; four times on the pavement, knocked over once; and, twice whilst legally crossing the road, again knocked over once. As a wheelchair user I’ve been hit twice – caught once on the hand and a front wheel hit me on the knee.

I wish the cycling scheme good luck. However, I do ask that greater consideration be taken by all cyclists; and, that they remember they are also bound by the laws of the land and road.

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