Dutch-style cycle infrastructure is on the way to London. It'll be half-arsed at first but we'll get there in the end. Making cycling a viable transport option's got a kind of political inevitability, like smoking bans and compulsory "traffic light" badges on food, because cycling has developed a lobby, which is growing in power. (As I am talking about politics, whether it's RIGHT is utterly irrelevant). I can see politicians being brow-beaten into jumping on the cycling band-wagon, and this is good. This post by "As easy as riding a bike" shows how the new infrastructure works. Bikes cross junctions on their own phase, without control, then when they're out of the way, the Cars go. It's all very Ernest, but one comment...
This may, of course, be more problematic with higher pedestrian movements, or with rather less civilised cycling behaviour...... got me thinking. Herein lies the problem: The Current British cycling culture. I left London 6 years ago, when cycling for transport was very much a minority pursuit. As a result, I am conditiononed to be hyper-aware, and hyper-aggressive in traffic, because that's what you needed to stay alive back then. Red Lights - pah! Much more important to get out the way. Cars - the enemy, who will be smashed for the slightest transgression. Helmets - for the weak. High Viz - symbol of supplication to the God car, and evil. In short, on the road, I have developed a War-zone mentality.
Will I use the new infrastructure when it's built? I don't use the cycle lane between Russell Square and Tottenham Court Road, though it's the only near-Dutch standard infrastructure around. Why not? Because I know the road and it's users and much as I fear a car, I can predict a car's movements in a way you can't predict the movement of an immigrant on a Halford's cheapo, or tourist on a Boris Bike. Years of conditioning have got me bum up, head down, sprinting to keep up with the cars, I become as one, and I rather like it. I imagine new cyclists will start in on the bike lane, and some of the fastest and strongest will join me on the road. As I get older and slower and buy a Pashley, I may find myself pootling down the bike lane, as I do when I find myself on a Boris bike (which I suspect are made of the same stuff found in the core of impacted stars). But as it is, the smell of diesel fumes brings out the competitive, aggressive road warrior in me. It's not just me, the Mayor is another paid-up member of the "muscular commuter" tribe, who regarded the daily dicing with death as merely adding spice to life. How did he describe navigating Euston circus underpass, or Elephant & castle roundabout?
"OK if you're confident..."Of course, it's people like me & Boris who have put of the old and the young, the women, the parent off cycling. You have to be young, strong, fit and confident to be a "vehicular cyclist". We've enabled road engineers to ignore cyclists by finding a way through the streets. We give the APPEARANCE to politicians, that cycling is an option to people aged 8 to 80, when it isn't. Things which appear to the uninitiated as reckless were merely survival techniques as we navigated roads designed without a thought to the cycle, but this enabled to blame the victim when cyclists get killed (90% of fatalities are the Motorist's fault). For example, I actively sought out the most congested routes on the basis that a stationary car can't kill you.
Lots of new cyclists have joined the ranks since then, hordes of us now swarm up and down Old Street every day. And the future is clear - London, will become a cycling city and the rest of the country will follow (and be much better off for it). The newbies politely stop at red lights and pootle along, in the door-zone cycle lane thoughtfully provided by a road engineer who's probably never ridden a bike in 30 years. These new cyclists, trusting in the magic blue or red paint are oblivious to the danger of going inside a lorry, up the carelessly placed filter lane, to the Advanced Stop Line, where you wait, to be passed by a driver at his most careless and stressed. I feel safer in the traffic, occupying a primary position (known as "in the way" to a motorist) and where possible a long way down the road when the lights change. However London, broadly lets the new cyclist get away with stuff I'd never dreamed of doing when I lived there, because transport cycling is becoming mainstream and even idiot occupiers of angst-boxes are looking out for people on bikes. Most of the time.
Are we vehicular cyclists going to be an anachronism? An de-mobbed, away from the cars, and into the cycle lane. We'll be safe, but will we be missing the action & danger. Will I cope in the bright, shiny, new, safer, more polite world, for which we cycling activists have been agitating for decades, but which will mean, in practice, waiting patiently behind someone dawdling along on an upright? Is it hyperbole to think of General MacArthur's "Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away".