Cycles in the City

Bicycles (Photo credit: General Wesc)

Back in May, I spent a day in Strasbourg, which is officially my favourite city. I would seriously consider becoming an MEP so I could live there.

I was in London yesterday and was struck by a contrast. Apart from the fact that London stank of rancid fish guts and is grimly ugly compared to Strasbourg, cyclists have a very different experience in the two cities.

London cyclists have to share the road with buses, taxis, lorries, cars, motorcycles etc. Many of the vehicles in London are driven aggressively and impatiently. Very few drivers seem to respect the safe zones for bikes at traffic lights. Vehicles stopped randomly all over the place tend to block cycle lanes, especially delivery vans.

Still there were a lot of bikes. Heavy cycle hire scheme bikes, skinny fixies, all kinds of other hybrids and racers. I noticed quite a lot of very new-looking and expensive boutique style bikes, and it’s clear that cyclists are not immune from the conspicuous consumption bug. Why else would you want blue wheels? If it were me, I’d be wanting a ride that looked distressed and less nickable. It struck me that there should be a market for distressed new bicycles, in the same way that Fender sell pre-beat-up guitars and you can get pre-worn jeans, god help us.

In Strasbourg, there were also a lot of bikes. There was also a lovely electric tram system and a park and ride scheme that was fantastic value for money. There were far fewer cars and taxis in evidence, therefore. But the bikes didn’t have to share the roads with the cars, the vans, and the trams. They just rode on the pavement. And nobody cared.

Nobody rode a bike so fast that it was dangerous. They just pootled along at better than walking pace, and pedestrians didn’t complain, get in the way, or get run over. Strasbourg is no paradise: there are homeless people and empty shops, just as in other big cities. But the pace of life seemed more relaxed and the streets were a more pleasant place to share.

One response to “Cycles in the City”

  1. Embarrassingly, I was busted a few months ago in London for riding a pavement, towards the Parliament end of the Embankment (which partly has cycle lanes marked on the pavement). It was just after the end of the official pavement cycle lane and I hadn’t managed to cross back over the dual carriageway onto CS8. I go along that stretch fairly frequently can’t help noticing the many others doing what I did once.

    The policeman gave me a verbal and suitably admonished I converted to pedestrian to cross at a set of lights in order to take back to the road.


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