The Barnet Eye has long been supportive of safer cycling provision in the London Borough of Barnet. To us it seems perverse that it is now safer to cycle in central London than in our leafy suburb. The reason for this is not rocket science. It is because the Mayor of London has been proactively installing segregated cycle lanes. The Barnet Eye currently has an office near New Bridge Street. We've been based their on and off since 1986. Over the last few years, the installation of proper cycle lanes has transformed the area from a cycle free zone to a mini Tour De France on a daily basis. We shot a short film one morning to illustrate the point.
You will see a scene like this any weekday rush hour morning. In Barnet, there has been minimal commitment to make cycling safe. Sadly as we see rising teenage obesity, we see less and less children in the cuburns cycling. This is for the perfectly good reason that it is dangerous.
Installing dedicated cycle lanes is expensive and disruptive to other forms of traffic, as anyone who has seen the massive infrastructure spending on the cycle superhighway project will know. It does however pay off. Cycles use far less road space, produce no pollution and require far less space for parking. In short, you get more road for your money.
So what can be done? What practical steps could be taken in the London Borough of Barnet? We've spoken to various campaigners. At a recent council meeting, one informed us that the council hadn't even understood the meaning of key facts in its own plan!
The Barnet Eye has some suggestions. We are not experts on cycling, however expert advice is what is needed. Our first suggestion is that Barnet should appoint a cycling Tsar.This should be someone who at the very least would be able to spot the errors in the council own plans.
The second thing should be to draw up a proper Barnet plan, in conjunction with local cycling groups. One key aspect is that all large developments should have a proper cycling plan. This does not mean a few bike parking spaces. It means proper safe routes. We believe that every rail and tube station, every school, every shopping centre and every large medical facility in the Borough should have a safe dedicated cycleway. This cannot be achieved overnight, but the first step is to identify the key sites that generate journeys, then work out some sort of schedule of priorities. We need to look for a few quick wins.
My suggestion would be to transform the old, disused Mill Hill the Hale to Edgware railway into a dedicated cycleway. This would provide a safe cycling route between Edgware Station/Shopping centre and Mill Hill Broadway. We believe it should also be possible to link the route to Edgware Hospital. This would make a statement that Barnet is serious about cycling. It would link two major transport hubs, a housing estate and a hospital. We'd also like to see a Boris Bike scheme rolled out for Mill Hill Broadway, The RAF Museum, Colindale Station, Hendon Station and Middlesex University. If this could be integrated with a rollout of safe cycle lanes, then even better.
There are all sorts of other improvements that have been made in central London, with changes to traffic light configurations and timings. One of the biggest risks to cyclists are motorists opening doors in front of them. It has been suggested that part of the Highway code and driving test should be to always open the drivers door with the wrong hand (in the UK the left hand). This may sound strange but it forces you to look around.
We find it rather strange that recently we had the sad case of a cyclist hitting a pedestrian and all manner of calls for legislation. I've lost count of the number of cyclist killed or maimed by HGV's but there is never any call for changes to the law. I believe that technology is available to massively reduce the risks to cyclists of HGV's but the road transport lobby have done a wonderful job of closing down such debates.