(Tejvan Pettinger / Flickr)
Since the turn of the century, the number of motorists in London more than halved from 137,000 to 64,000. In the same period, cyclist numbers trebled from 12,000 to 36,000, showing that more commuters are increasingly choosing two wheels over four to get to work.
Britain now boasts over two million weekly cyclists—an all-time high, according to British Cycling, a governing body in the UK. Sales of U.K. manufactured bikes subsequently grew 69 percent in 2014 and the effect of this is most evidently seen in the capital.
“You can probably trace it back to the bombing attacks in London in 2005,” points out Simon Mottram, founder of cycling clothing firm Rapha, in a BBC report. “The day after, the tube lines were all still closed, and suddenly there were lots of people on bikes to get to work.”
“Not to forget the government’s Cycle To Work scheme [introduced back in 1999 and which allows people to buy a bike tax-free]. And the underlying increased focus on health and fitness” he added.
Transport for London has described the shift in transport method as “a feat unprecedented in any major city.” However, change is not happening fast enough for some as London lags behind other European capitals. Such is the case with Madrid, which placed restrictions on vehicle types entering the city center. Oslo is banning all cars entering by 2019 along with large parts of the River Seine being pedestrianised in Paris. Dublin, too, will have pedestrianized areas by 2017.
Cyclist safety is also hot on the agenda. In 2012, 14 cyclists died on London’s roads and a staggering 671 were severely injured. A year later, six more died in the space of three days. That period in late 2013 marked a turning point for changing attitudes towards cyclist safety in the capital.
Rented bikes have increased in popularity (Anonphotography / Flickr)
Campaigners prior to then had been calling for separate bike lanes for years, though only now are their efforts coming to fruition. Cycle “superhighways” have been introduced by Mayor Boris Johnson during his tenure, though many argue that while these are a step forward, they still fail to provide a physical barrier between cyclists and drivers.
Changes, though, are still being made. Already, lower traffic lights for cyclists are being trialled across the city and new solutions are still yet to be implemented. These include a two-stage right turn system and early release for cyclists ahead of cars at traffic lights. Both can be seen in the video below.
“I think it is a lot safer for new cyclists, it will give them more confidence to cycle round London” said one commuter speaking to the BBC.
According to city authorities, most superhighways should be completed by the summer. A map of all current superhighways can be seen below.
(Courtesy Transport for London)