Locals welcome new hire bikes in East London but calling for more cycle-friendly streets

We went out this morning to talk to people in East London, to gather signatures for our Love London, Go Dutch petition, and see what people thought of the new hire bikes that have been installed in the area today.

Rebecca Collins from Bethnal Green (pictured top) is keen to ride more, but is put off by the capital's roads: "If road conditions in London were as good as those in Holland I’d definitely cycle more."  

Naira Labace from Camden (above) was on foot, but was enthusiastic about the petition and riding a bike.

Looking after two children, she said, "I’m afraid of all the traffic and the lorries, but if there were proper lanes for cyclists, then I’d really like to cycle in London all the time."

It shouldn't be news to people that fear of motor traffic is the main reason Londoners don't cycle more. 

We've all heard it from friends, neighbours and relatives countless times, and only a few weeks ago a survey of Londoners revealed the same thing.

In a nutshell, half of Londoners said the next mayor could take action to encourage them to cycle more, and three-quarters of those said safe and convenient bike lanes or safer junctions were the way forward.

While Phase 2 expansion of the cycle hire scheme to East London today is welcome, it must be recognised that a huge proportion of Londoners are effectively barred from using the scheme because they're not prepared to ride a bike when our streets feel so unwelcoming.

Hackney is one of the most popular boroughs for cycling, with a fair few successful examples of cycling infrastructure (including the new 'cycle street' at Goldsmith's Row where the photos are taken).

However, main roads nearby still demand that cyclists jockey for position with heavy traffic, often moving at high speeds.

Yes, hire bikes offer people the means to cycle, and training can provide useful skills, but the majority want road danger massively reduced before they'll go near a bike in London.

And so far the infrastructure improvements that have accompanied the hire bike scheme have been peripheral in nature.

Sadly, zero extra funding for infrastructure improvements was allocated for today's Phase 2 expansion.

When the hire scheme was launched LCC staff welcomed the returning of Bermondsey Street to two-way for cycling along its lower part, but even this is only a partial solution, ignoring the northern end of the street.

And measure of this magnitude are unlikely to ever be enough to encourage the level of cycling the mayor apparently favours: 20% of journeys, if you catch him in the right mood.

What about the chaotic Tooley Street at one end of Bermondey Street, or Tower Bridge Road at the other (where three cyclists have died in recent years)?

Busy roads like these need continental-style solutions to separate cyclists from fast-moving motor traffic.

Shopping streets like Bermondsey Street could easily be blocked to through traffic (like Goldsmith's Row above), making it a magnet for cyclists and walkers (as it is once a year when the street festival takes over for a day).

Despite the positives of the hire bikes...

  • access to bikes for more people
  • very few seriously casualties
  • success in raising the profile of cycling

...the scheme clearly demonstrates the shortcomings of London's road system by virtue of the sad fact that most people are scared to use it.

The solutions are out there: high-quality bike lanes on busy roads, traffic-calming and the removal of rat-runs from streets where people live and shop.

We're calling on all the mayoral candidates to support our Love London, Go Dutch campaign, calling for continental-standard infrastructure in the capital - we hope you support it too.