27 May 2009
Lies, damned lies, and Euston cycle parking
Boris Johnson was in Trafalgar Square yesterday, 'kick-starting London's cycling revolution' according to the Transport for London press release. (Er, guys, you don't kick-start a bike. You kind of push it off, put your bum on the saddle, and grab the handlebars with elbows pointing out... but you do have to know the difference between arse and elbow...)
Some events we knew about already (such as London Freewheel coming on 20 Sep). But the main news was the £111m budget promised on a series of radical, visionary and entirely new cycle infrastructure projects, such as Boris's London Bike HIre Scheme and Boris's Cycle Superhighways. Funny, I thought we'd been promised all these in February 2008, except that then they were Ken's London Bike Hire Scheme and Ken's Cycle Superhighways... and that the budget then was £500m.
I know the difference is paltry these days, but a third of a billion here, a third of a billion there - it can add up, you know. But as we all know, 91 per cent of statistics are just plucked out the air. The only new figure in the press release was TfL's assertion that an 'estimated' 545,000 journey are now made by bike per day in London, and that cycling levels have gone up by 9 per cent in the last year.
Now, I doubt those figures come from published, peer-reviewed research - more like PR-reviewed, as real cyclist Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column might say - but look: it certainly feels like cycling levels have nudged up in the last year, and if we can quote that figure to councillors or developers when trying to persuade them to remember cyclists, that's fine by me.
Boris says in the press release that his intention is 'making London a city where two wheeled, pedal-powered transportation is the norm, and not the exception'. Great, but there's still a long way to go: only 3 per cent of trips in the capital are made by bike. My intention is to have a career where being on holiday is the norm, not the exception; but I've a long way to go there too.
But a positive thing from that press release to end. It mentions 138 new cycle parking spaces in Euston station. They were evidently unveiled yesterday, and were already filling up when I nipped round in the early afternoon to have a look (all pics).
They're more mechanical than we're used to, to the extent of needing instructions. Given the problems most of us have assembling a flat-pack office desk I wondered if it was a challenge too far, but people were evidently getting the hang of it OK.
Now, 138 is nowhere near enough (and St Pancras up the road is still woefully and disgracefully short of cycle parking; its paltry few dozen spaces were only installed in the face of a cycle protest the day the international station opened). But something's happening, and figures show that, 95 per cent of the time, it's better for something to happen than nothing.
The latest gossip on the Boris lorry story, by the way, is that it was a tipper truck (paid by the load, and hence incentivised to go like hell) whose back doors were being held shut by a coat hanger, which was dislodged when the driver did his Dukes of Hazzard thing over the speedbump.
If so, this was a stupid and dangerous use of a perfectly good coat hanger, which should have been in its proper place - that is, impromptu replacement for a stolen radio aerial on a 1978 Ford Capri.