I’m as sick as any of you, my loyal crew, of writing and hearing about depression and anxiety. So today, in the spirit of Looking On The Bright Side, I’m going to talk about something that cheers me up: cycling!
Conclusion: cycling is awesome. I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed, either. The insouciant charm of cycling gives it a kind of panache and chic that’s hard to replicate à pied. I’m definitely not talking about cycling as a sport, here – in fact, it’s extremely amusing to watch the lycra-clad Serious Cyclists (most of whom, it has to be said, are men), huffing and puffing to overtake sedate pedallers such as myself because they can’t bear to waste the speed-enhancing properties of their aerodynamic helmets on silly things like actually waiting at red lights. I’m quite happy to pootle around at a reasonable speed, keeping my eyes on the traffic of course, and enjoy the exercise (which probably explains why it cheers me up – endorphins and all that).
I certainly wouldn’t count myself among the cycling evangelists. I don’t belong to the ranks of the Serious Cyclists (it’s not a good look), and I don’t entertain grand delusions of saving the environment by riding my bike. However, something I have in common with the hardcore cyclists is a sense of frustration at how damn difficult it seems to be to cycle in London. I’m not afraid of the traffic, and I do my best to cycle sensibly and safely, but sometimes it seems that urban planners have actually gone out of their way to make using a bicycle one of the most awkward ways to get around the city. Lack of cycle paths, free-rein for HGVs (which account for a large proportion of cyclist deaths), dearth of cycle parking in some places, etc. etc. For example, take a look at this:
What’s this? (I hear you cry). Is it a Dadaist artwork? Or have I been sniffing Pritt Stick again? Fear not, loyal crew. This frankly amazing and professional-looking map illustrates one of the most egregiously ridiculous examples of urban planning cock-up that I have ever seen. I noticed it last night, and such was my wrath that I immediately went and made a diagram on MS Paint. Look at it: the green patch represents the world’s shortest cycle lane (probably), which allows cyclists exiting the one-way street to cross into the farthest lane of traffic (heading left in the diagram, and eastwards in real life). It’s not that which raised my ire. It’s the location of the cycle racks, represented by the 4 black lines to the right of the cycle lane. These are on the central reservation of Euston Road, one of the busiest in London. Because of the placement of various fences, the only way to get onto that part of the reservation is either to swerve across three lanes of traffic, stop your bike and climb off while standing in the road; or – even worse – if you’re cycling from left-to right (east-to-west), you have to go up a side street and then down another side street, cross the oncoming traffic and get into the tiny cycle lane, where you can dismount and step up onto the kerb (assuming there are no other cyclists behind you on the lane). OK, yes, this is a rant, and a boring one to boot. It just makes me wonder, who plans these things? Contrary to popular wisdom, I don’t blame Boris – after all, he’s not the one sitting down and actually laying out London’s streets on a map, and a lot of this kind of thing is in the hands of borough councils rather than City Hall. Anyway, things like this are a pain in the arse. Still – they won’t stop me cycling!