If you've tried cycling around London, you'll understand why residents are celebrating Mayor Boris Johnson's intention to spend nearly 1 billion pounds on the city's bicycle routes. Double decker buses, cramped alleyways and teetering lorries have made for a 21st-century population explosion in spaces that Dickens described as crowded 150 years ago.
The plan's backbone is a 24-kilometre (or 15-mile, as the Poms would say) bicycle highway, which will enable Londoners to cycle from west to east, in a lane (mostly) separated from motorised vehicles. This "bike Crossrail" will be the longest cycle path of its kind to be found in any European city. The aim is to decrease pressure on roads and public transport, improve air quality and increase faith that two wheels can be better than four. In the words of the ever-eloquent Johnson, "I want to de-Lycrafy cycling ... [to] give people the confidence to get in the saddle."
Apart from the Crossrail, the vision includes a Central London Grid, which will create links in frenetic areas like the West End and the City; a series of 'Quietways', which are extended, signposted, suburban routes that guide cyclists along tranquil side streets; and a host of semi-segregated and fully segregated lanes. The Dutch commitment to the cultivation of a healthy cycling culture will be emulated through the development of what are being dubbed 'Little Hollands' in a minimum of one, and perhaps as many as three, boroughs. If these cyclist-friendly areas are a success, expansion throughout Outer London is likely.
Furthermore, the Safer Intersection Review is about to receive a 500 percent increase in funding, from 19 million to 100 million, which means that some of London's most chaotic junctions — including Elephant and Castle, Blackfriars and Vauxhall — will be treated to improvements. Eight police will be employed to deal exclusively with accidents involving cyclists and heavy goods vehicles.
At an April 2012 hustings concerned with cycling and road safety, Johnson lost support from some members of the cycling community after describing "stereotypical cyclists" as those who "charge around in lycra", "jump lights" and consider themselves "morally superior". His new plan is likely to go a long way in healing the damage done.