The formation of the Hackney People on Bikes campaign group is a welcome shot of common sense and free thinking into the debate about cycling. For too long, the loudest voices have been those of people who think we just need to "man up" and brave the traffic - that helps nobody.
You won't catch me cycling to work. Partly because I am horribly unfit and might not survive the journey, but mostly because cycling provision in Hackney - though marginally better than some boroughs - is pretty rubbish. Meaning I might not survive the journey.
For most people who aren't hardcore cyclists (and more power to you if you are!), an ideal cycle route is:
- reasonably direct
- not one that requires the cyclist to be mixed in with cars, lorries, buses and the like
Now there's not much councils can do about hills, but there are things you can do to ensure cycle routes are direct and safe. Take a look at continental Europe (the Netherlands are the jewel in the crown) where you see everything from one-way streets that cyclists can ignore (avoiding big detours) to full-on segregated cycle ways set apart from traffic.
And it works. The Dutch cycle more than any other people in the world - 27% of all journeys nationally, with some towns and cities managing nearly 60%. Sadly, too much of our thinking has been led by people who already cycle and who often don't se how off-putting it is to have to ride alongside traffic.
Enter "Hackney People on Bikes," whose manifesto calls for exactly this kind of Dutch-style infrastructure; safe, segregated and inviting for those of us who aren't willing to take our lives into our hands.
Why not take a look at their new website. I certainly hope I'll be working closely with them in coming months because one thing is certain, we need to dramatically improve our streetscapes to promote walking and cycling.