Last week’s 'die in’ tribute to a killed cyclist, highlights the main reason why more people don't cycle - cycling in London traffic does not feel safe. When experienced cyclists such as Chris Boardman, former world champion feel that the roads are too dangerous for him, there is little chance of encouraging others to cycle until there is a significant increase in protected cycle routes. Already this year there have been seven cyclists killed in London.
Air pollution causes lifelong problems, from children's lung growth being stunted, asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, heart attacks, strokes, and kills around 9,500 Londoners a year. More than half of all the air pollution comes from road traffic. This week, people driving older, more polluting petrol and diesel vehicles will be liable for the £10 T-charge, on top of the congestion charge of £11.50, which has been in place since 2003. This will reduce some pollution from vehicles, but even the greenest electric cars generate particulate pollution from brake pads and tyres. The air pollution limits for main arteries such as the A4, are considerably higher than the EU legal limit. It is for this reason that TFL are proposing to route the Cycle Superhighway 9 along Chiswick High Road and Kings Street, rather than along the A4.
We urgently need to reduce the number of vehicles on our streets, in order to reduce toxic air pollution. One option is to increase the number of protected cycle routes which would encourage people to make local journeys by bicycle instead of cars.
London is facing a growing obesity epidemic, driven in part by low levels of exercise. If our roads were safe, the fitness benefits from cycling would far outweigh the risks from accidents and air pollution. Cycling is one of the few sports that can be enjoyed by all age groups and physical abilities.
The majority of disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, with many using their cycle as a mobility aid (just like a wheelchair or mobility scooter). Though I am not registered disabled, I use a bicycle to help my arthritic knee, keep fit and reduce the stress on my bad knee from walking. According to research by “Wheels for Wellbeing” (the national charity for disabled cyclists), inaccessible cycling infrastructure is the biggest difficulty faced by disabled cyclists. Narrow cycle lanes, bollards and anti-motorcycle barriers are just some of the obstacles that can restrict or deny access to non-standard cycles, such as handcycles, tricycles and tandems, which are typically longer and wider than standard bicycles. The west to east cycle contraflow in King Street is a typical example - it is too narrow, discontinuous, and stops before reaching most of the shops. Cycle Superhighway 9 will provide a new high quality cycle route for everyone - disabled, children, parents with children on their bicycles, etc to go the the shops and cafes of Hammersmith and Chiswick.
In addition to the obvious health benefits, The Cycle Superhighway 9 offers potential economic benefits particularly for the struggling shops in King Street: The UK Government's 2016 review ' the value of cycling' found cycle parking allows 5 times more retail spend than the same space for car parking, and cycle friendly neighbourhoods can have greater retail spend. More people would shop in Hammersmith and Chiswick High Road, as I do, if there was a safe way to cycle home from the shops.
Whilst I believe there are many details of TFL’s proposed CS9 route that need improvement - the junction with British Grove and the pavement space outside the Catholic Church in Chiswick for example, overall, I am supportive of the proposal.
London has a long way to go to rival the cycling cities of Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. CS9 offers one small step in the right direction.
The CS9 consultation closes on 31st October