The answer seems to be this – both groups are fed up of each other! People who cycle moan about disrespectful and sometimes dangerous people in cars. People in cars moan about people who cycle getting in their way. Now it doesn’t take a genius to realize that both groups should be separated. And it can be done in London, Dutch style, oh yes. Examples: Cable/Candle St and North Woolwich road, are two I know about – I use them every day to get to work. While they’re not perfect (yield signs for people on bicycles where people in cars have to then yield to car traffic anyway) they do what they are supposed to do – segregate traffic, and allow people to pootle on their bikes next to fat moving car traffic (North Woolwich Road). Cable Street path teems with people on bikes in the morning, same with Narrow Street (both are part of the CS3) which could also be fitted with a feature like this without a problem, given the relatively small number of cars using it and that it is a one way street anyway.
This could basically be done with most one way streets in London, but it would mean removing parking spaces from one side of the roads which the councils and road planners are reluctant to do, probably fearing the backlash from the motorized. The bottom line is that there will never be enough parking spaces and never enough capacity on the streets to accommodate all cars. And let’s not kid ourselves – the number of people is growing and so is the number of cars they own. Creating new parking spaces on the streets will never solve the problem. However there is a different approach, and it’s not necessarily building underground parking lots.
How about the councils start discouraging people from driving by making it even more difficult and expensive than it already is. I mean it’s already pretty horrible to drive in London, and it costs a small fortune, but people don’t see an alternative. The public transport is either slow or quite expensive (or both) and cycling at the moment is not very appealing. Imagine a situation where you are stuck in traffic and next to you, you see a person on a bicycle (in everyday clothes) cycling on a nice separate path and passing you, then another one and another; suddenly you understand that while you are wasting your time and money (and health) they are enjoying themselves, getting fitter and getting to their destination in time and relatively quickly.
The average speed of a car in the centre of London is said to be 9mph. Anyone can do that on a bike. If we are given proper, direct and well maintained cycle paths people will start seeing cycling as a safe and convenient alternative to car transport. This will benefit the society in so many ways – people will get fitter, less stressed; roads will become a more pleasant place for everyone (less cars); the city will become less polluted; then with the growing number of cyclist there will be pressure on the councils to keep the paths in good repair, widen them – although you can be sure that they will never take up as much space as roads meant for cars.
People who drive should team up with people who cycle to lobby for segregation of the traffic, to help make out city more livable. Sure – a trip to Brighton might require a car if you don’t like trains, but let’s keep cars out of the city centre – this will benefit all of us.
After all, whenever we are people who drive cars or people who ride bicycles, we are all people and we want to live in a pleasant place, safe for our children, sustainable and clean. No?