Friday, 30 November 2012

Some thoughts on 'SkyCycle': a further defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials

Clearly we can all take as read that the SkyCycle idea publicised earlier this year is absolute rubbish and neither practically nor financially viable. However, I would argue that putting it on the table was actually a very shrewd move by Boris Johnson and co at TfL.

Snazzy (if completely unrealistic) computer animations like this help capture the tabloid imagination.
Unlike, for instance, a proposed protected cycle-lane (which all cyclists would much more prefer) SkyCycle plans are 'sexy' and thus got significant tabloid coverage. This publicity constructively helps to put cycling on the map to the general British populace as a viable mode of transport, and reinforce the idea that cycling conditions in this country are currently substandard and something needs to be done.

Furthermore, by giving the impression (whether correct or not) that they have pursued and then discarded the SkyCycle scheme, if Boris Johnson and TfL then turn around and say (as they do appear to be doing now) that what we actually need are early-start cycle-only traffic lights and cycle bus stop By-Passes, then their arguments have significantly more clout with those that oppose improving road layout for cyclists. They can say, 'look, we've looked into a number of options but a protected cycle lane and reduced motor traffic capacity is really the only solution'.

Perhaps I'm being too kind to Mr Johnson, but I don't think it's wise for cyclists to underestimate the depth of anti-cycling feeling that a politician like Boris has to negotiate in order to deliver any lasting road layout solutions; especially when these very solutions will often result in increases to average motor traffic journey times in London.