Guest Post Part 7 – Cycling in London

Guest blogger Robert wraps up his travels around the world with a look at one of the great cities of the world:

Cycling along Oxford St

Cycling along Oxford St, London

Since London probably needs little introduction, let’s start with a “What if…” question.

What if Boris Johnson had become Mayor of Christchurch in 2008 instead of London?

Well, being a keen cyclist he probably would have rolled back the City Council decision made in 2005 to put a moratorium on further cycleway development in the interim {editor’s note: it already was officially rescinded, but progress since had been slow}. He may have insisted that NZ Transport Agency fund the southern motorway cycle path themselves, meaning that the money spent on this by the Council could then have been spent throughout the city on projects for safer cycling. Would the resulting percentage increase of those regularly using bikes for everyday transport have contributed to an improved post-quake environment? Certainly the traffic issues may have been less significant. What about the general well-being of residents able to take advantage of regular exercise during the simple task of getting around the city ? Recognising the importance of providing a range of transport options for a vibrant, healthy, and accessible city, Boris would have also boosted the service levels for public transport users.

A shortcut for bikes, but not cars

A shortcut for bikes, but not cars

OK, perhaps making comparisons between Christchurch and London when it comes to transport problems is a long shot, but let’s consider two things. Firstly, since my time living in London in the 1980s and now, the ability to get around by bike and public transport has improved considerably and the city now feels a better place to live. A raft of initiatives over the decades has gradually improved things for commuters, walkers, and cyclists and, as a consequence of this, also for many who use motor vehicular transport. Far from perfect, but better. Seemingly gone are the days I remember of biking to work on Central London streets alongside stationary traffic in gridlock the entire journey. Then once at work, blackening a tissue when using cream to get the pollution off my face.

Secondly, we all have aspirations for Christchurch to grow to be a fun and liveable city. Failing to gather ideas and learn how to do this from other cities that have been there and done that is unwise. A range of good transport choices are vital for our success in the future in my opinion, hence the importance of our cycleways project right from the start and as soon as possible.

"Boris Bikes" ready to go

“Boris Bikes” ready to go

Back to Boris and his famous bikes. The bike sharing scheme is one of but many initiatives introduced to improve transport in London; equally as well known is the congestion charge.

Returning to London as a visitor, the highlight for me would be the development of the Thames Path Cycle Route, which links Sustrans National Routes 1 and 4, following in places the Thames Walking Path. Sounds complicated, but essentially it is now possible to cycle along the Thames from Greenwich (south bank) as far as Tower Bridge (actually further, but it can be crowded), cross the bridge and follow the trail on the north bank to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which takes you under the Thames back to Greenwich. In a few areas where river trail access has not been granted, a diversion takes you on to a quiet road or paved area for a few metres and then back to the river route. A very few sections appeared to be pedestrian only, but only after we had ridden through them. Oh well…

Good route signage

Good route signage – well, mostly

The redevelopment of the original docklands area that has taken place since the 1970s and 80s, providing residential and mixed used living, is on a scale that is hard to comprehend.

Also plenty of cafes and restaurants en route to be tempted by. A mighty good way to experience an even mightier city.

Separated bikeway in Hampstead Heath

Separated bikeway in Hampstead Heath

What does London have to teach Christchurch?

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