• Sean M. O'Connell

London Cycling

Cycling in London. For many years cycling around London has been a safety issue. Cyclists nor motorists feel comfortable or safe sharing the road. I've rode my bike around the city many times and it can be harrowing especially when a cyclist needs to make a left turn.

One of the benefits that the city does is provide research, data and planning for these issues. For example, the city has implemented bike counters to gather data on road use. The Cycling Master Plan of 2016 offers a wealth of information but it became very clear that the proposed routes do not connect in a meaningful way. Most of the existing infrastructure is sporadic and the routes to connect with each other aren't ideal. For instance, a cyclist wouldn't want to pedal all the way down Southdale Rd. to Wonderland Rd just to reach downtown. He or she would simply go directly down Wellington Rd.

What I would propose is to have cycling super highways (or paths) in the city. Essentially the purpose of the routes would promote cycling tourism and enable cyclists to get around town quickly, safely and efficiently.

To illustrate the Cycling Master Plan highlights some of the issue within the existing system.

  • fundamental gaps in the cycling network

  • Southern portion of the city is not bicycle friendly (ie obstacles)

  • promoting cycling tourism

  • lack of signage to denote transition from one route to another

  • contact points at intersection when mixing with traffic

  • collaboration with community groups

  • involvement of city council in decision making and funding

  • amenities (ie bike parking or way points)

These issues reflect the need for an overarching strategy to build a network that functions for everyone. The plan does speak about cycling during winter months which is challenging. For the sake of simplicity I will speak to issues in the summer months. One of the reason the southern end of the city is a challenge is due to the lack of infrastructure for cyclists. I fully anticipate that if we build BRT that we can build the infrastructure for cyclists at the same time. Signage then can be easily designed and integrated into the system whether there are painted lane ways, etc.

I attended a planning session of the cycling committee years ago and one of the novel ideas that stuck with me was how to have cyclists interact with intersections. The idea is to incorporate cyclists onto the pavement with pedestrians. The way that would occur is a cyclist comes down the street path to the intersection, they merge into a 'box' area near pedestrians and then cross with them in the zebra crossing, before merging back onto the path on the opposite side of the intersection. This idea would eliminate the need for cyclist to commit to a left hand turn in the lane. A cyclist would simply perform as a pedestrian would when crossing and merging. It was a far safer method for major intersections. I can attest to that from my own experience.

The other idea I would like to implement are public bike sharing to promote tourism and to enable people without cars an alternative method of getting around. The system works by having way stations or points along the cycling route where people can rent out a bike for a period of time to journey from one place to another. They, then return the bike at the next way station. If someone doesn't return the bicycle within the time frame, they are charged a fee beyond their time limit of use. The systems I've seen do partner with the private sector to maintain and offer bikes as a public service. I do not see why we cannot propose a similar system of funding. Funding aside, it is an appealing idea as it would promote exercise, tourism and transportation throughout the city. These ideas encourage the use of way stations to provide amenities to cyclists by connecting them to transit hubs. A strong cycling system could even support London as a host city for bicycle racing.

My preference, where applicable, is to see cycling paths adjoin pedestrian walkways and eliminate road use. It makes for better practice and safety. However I am also acutely aware of the need for education both for drivers and cyclists in use of the road or pathways. I would have city hall conduct an awareness campaign to ensure that most people understand how the new system works. One of the issues in London is that there is a disconnection in communication from City Hall to the wider public. I seek to remedy this.

Similarly, I would direct city council to redirect initiatives on a cycling network to a broader vision as I have outlined. The sporadic approach is disjointed and runs the risk of being quickly outmoded. A cohesive cycling infrastructure will also increase home values, lower transportation costs in the long term and requires less road maintenance/improvements while using less space.

London needs a system that makes everyone feel safe.