Made To Measure

I see TfL have revived last year’s inexplicable cycling promotion campaign this summer. The posters show a wittily prescient picture of London landmarks made out of dismembered bicycle parts and the headline: ‘London – A City Made For Cycling’. WTF? Describing London as a city made for cycling is akin to describing a cow as an animal made for pole-vaulting – its just so wrong, and in so many ways, that it’s hard to know where to start. London – like all major cities – is made for making a few people very large amounts of money. Everything else is just incidental. There may be some cities – in Denmark, maybe, or Holland – where cycling is pleasant, or at the least non-lethal. London is not one of them.

London does need more people to cycle. It’s the only way our transport infrastructure could actually accommodate any more growth, and more cyclists makes for safer cycling (even with the cunning deployment of the passenger door, a car can at best only pick off two or three of us at once). It’s just that adverts as patently wrong as this are not the way to acheive it. Anyone fooled into getting on their bike by one of these posters in the belief that their path will be strewn with rose-petals and flowers instead of broken glass and potholes and homicidal drivers will get off white and shaking after the first roundabout and cast their bicycle into the nearest canal, vowing never to ride again. Ken needs to find another way. And, as it happens, I have an idea.

You see the people he needs to convince are the petrolheads, the Mr. Toads, the Jeremy Clarksons of this world who still insist on driving whatever the personal or public inconvenience. Driving in London today takes a special sort of pig-headedness – unless you’re going a very long way, at antisocial hours, anything else would be quicker. But the die-hard motorists aren’t going to get on a bike because they think they should, or because they think it will be somehow easy. Oh no. A far better slogan – above a picture of a scarred and scary looking cycle courier type in Lycra – would be this

Cycling in London – Come on in, if you think you’re hard enough.


10 responses to “Made To Measure

  1. I try to sympathise, I really do; maybe I could manage to root for your cause if it weren’t for the fact that I nearly get run over almost every time I use a pedestrian crossing in Oxford by cyclists languishing under the impression that traffic signals don’t apply to them.

    Apparently, it never occurs to a cyclist that if the light is red at a pedestrian crossing then there may very well be, you know, a pedestrian crossing.

    But, otherwise, I agree totally with your reasoning on this matter.

  2. London City Soul™

    I agree, but I think we all need to admit that there are a lot of cyclists out there that don’t know how to behave either and every second pedestrian would pledge for a Walking in London – Come on in, if you think you’re hard enough. lol

    I still agree, what with all the crowded tube trains and late trains and buses.

  3. Steve – Oxford probably is a city made for cyclists – to the detriment of everyone else.
    LCS – true, true, I don’t condone poor cycling. Sometimes I’m the only bugger stopping at red, but stop I do…

  4. Oh, and a flaw in my argument has just struck me. If Mr. Clarkson et al were to become cyclists, imagine how rude and unmannerly they would be … hmm. Rethink may be needed

  5. As someone campaigning on behalf of London’s motorists I feel I have to comment. Why is it that Mr C has become the stereotype for the capital’s motorists? That man is more of a d**khead than a petrolhead.

    As a result of reading this blog I examined my conscience and obtained an Oyster card. I am now re-evaluating public transport after a break of many years. (I also periodically take a look at my bike in the garage)

    When I am stuck on the travelling sauna that is the Northern Line I yearn for the air conditioned comfort of my car. A cool breeze and Radio 4 wafting over me is all I ask for…

    As for homicidal drivers – what about those suicidal, colour-blind cyclists then 🙂 Seriously I was nearly in an accident with one the other day.

  6. Well I don’t live in London but I go there every day for work. I don’t have a bike but thought about getting one and because the only cycling I’d done was as a child I thought it might be an idea to join some sort of group to get to grips with it. After trawling out of date websites for groups in my area I contacted a man at the Council offices who was supposed to be an expert in this area. After several non returned calls – he was always in meetings – I finally gave up.

    I don’t drive and I think a bike would be nice to use in London for those times when I fancy looking around at new places, however cycling on the road scares the bejeezers out of me and cycling on the path is just wrong.

  7. oxford is not a bad place for cyclists, and like most places you do get a few prats on bikes, but some of them have paid a price over time and got themselfs injured or killed.
    keep safe john

  8. Jim – yay! Seriously, I’m always glad if motorists feel they can leave their car at home. Although if you’re used to the freedom of a car, you’ll probably prefer a bike – or indeed anything – to the Northern line (even if you have to cycle up the Archway road instead, as I used to do)
    Anon – your best bet is probably to get on the bike and give it a go, early-ish on Sunday is best, and stick to the side roads.
    John – Ah, happy memories of cycling around Oxford, drunk, racing milkfloats at 4am … (ahem. Not me. A friend.)

  9. It’s a toughie.

    There are so many self-interests banging their drums on this topic.

    The utopian dream is that public transport should be clean, comprehensive, cheap and readily available 24/7.

    The reality is that the British public transport system is none of these things.

    Hell, we don’t even have an integrated public transport system.

    So how do we get to the utopian dream?

    Is the way forward really to bash what a large portion of the population use whilst proclaiming the way forward is X?

    Is cycling a viable public transport option in London?

    I would say no; not while the roads are in the appalling state of disrepair they currently enjoy, not while cyclists would be forced to share the roads with internal combustion engines (or any other kind of user for that matter).

    And the reason I say ‘any other kind of user’ is because cyclists have to accept a set of rules/standards and enforcement, and I don’t see any chance of that happening in London (or any other major British conurbation for that matter).

    And don’t even get me started on the macro-economic shifts that the national finances would have to make to accommodate the revenue-loss that a shift away from car ownership would mandate!


  10. Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated!

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