The release of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London has been welcomed by many of us keen to further spread the joy of cycling in the Capital.
Investment over the last ten years has helped thousands of people to return to cycling through the creation of a basic pan-London cycle network, the start of the Barclay’s Cycle Superhighways, the introduction of the Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme, the Biking Borough programme and a long list of smarter choices measures aimed at helping potential cyclists.
The new vision can be seen as a redoubling of efforts – taking all elements of cycling to a new level. The success of these previous efforts has created a critical mass of cyclists eager for more – and more importantly, created a whole new wave of potential cyclists awaiting the creation of a cycling environment in which they feel they can take part.
A US-based study aimed at classifying types of cyclists found the population can be roughly broken down into four categories: the strong & fearless, the enthused & confident, the interested but concerned, and ‘no way no how’. Not long ago, London was a city for the strong & fearless, accounting for less than 1% of the population, willing to take their life into their own hands for the sake of their chosen transport option. The last ten years has seen the emergence of the enthused & confident, accounting for around 7% of the population, who are generally thought to be comfortable cycling with traffic but have been attracted by efforts aimed at supporting cyclists.
The next group is that which the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling is targeting. The ‘interested but concerned’, found in the study to account for 60% of the general population, are a critical group in creating cycling as a normalised behaviour in London. This is a group worried about the current safety of cycling in London, they lack the confidence to cycle on many of London’s streets, and are waiting for the real world to match up with their expectations of a safe, comfortable environment for cycling. In many cases this will take the form of segregated cycle lanes, quietways and safer junctions, but supporting ‘soft’ measures will also play a critical role in raising awareness, increasing confidence and maybe giving that final push to get this group onto their bikes.
While the remaining third of the population may currently have no interest in cycling, perhaps someday the appeal and ease of cycling in London will be so great that even the most hardened anti-cyclists are at least willing to give it a passing thought.
For now, the Mayor’s Vision is just what cycling in London needs: a strong push up the ladder, helping to turn London from a place where certain types of people cycle to a place where all types of people cycle. And where lycra is strictly optional.