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On the street: London, 25.08.2016

James Greig | August 25, 2016

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Through the lens on people riding bikes in London, on a sticky summer's day

A quick preamble if I may…

It’s been a lot of fun to start up CycleLove again.

So I wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who’s written in with kindly worded messages. And make an extra nod in the direction of my good friend Graham (above) who has been gently but persistently nudging me in the direction of CycleLove for the past year or so.

Without Graham’s continued enthusiasm for CycleLove I’m not sure I would have rekindled my own.

But… and this feels like a weird thing to say… this week I felt a little unsure of what to write here.

(I guess it’s going to take a while to restart all the interesting conversations I was having when CycleLove was last in full swing at the end of 2014).

Then I remembered something.

CycleLove started very simply, with me taking photos of interesting people on bikes.

So today I slung my old — and it really is quite old now — Canon around my neck, and went for a ride through London.

It’s been hot here over the last few days, that kind of sticky heat which means that even thinking harder than usual makes you sweat.

And sweat I did, because I had something worth thinking about: how has cycling changed in London in the 18 months that this blog has been dormant?

Good question.

Let’s start with infrastructure. We now have proper cycle superhighways in place across a few key arteries of the city. You can ride from Stratford to Big Ben along huge swathes of protected cycle lanes. And you’ll see families with young kids happily riding along them at the weekends — something that was unthinkable before.

There are “Quietways” appearing in London too, which meander along smaller roads and backstreets, and are designed to “overcome barriers to cycling”. Lots of inverted commas in that sentence… because I’m not convinced by this approach, and I don’t think this is going to change. The Quietway that runs near me from Greenwich to Waterloo is magical in a few places, but blighted by rat-running traffic in many others. I still believe the only way to make cycling accessible to everyone (not just “cyclists”) is with dedicated infrastructure for bikes.

Back to the people who actually use the cycling infrastructure though.

The more that is built, the more the numbers of people cycling increase, and dramatically so. Despite some very vocal opposition from certain factions in London, the numbers speak for themselves. One recent quote from TFL, for example, said that “at its busiest, cyclists make up 70 per cent of all traffic on Blackfriars Bridge on the North-South Cycle Superhighway.” Boris Johnson’s closing gesture for cycling in London represents a seismic shift for cycling in London — but now we need our new mayor to continue extending the scheme.

I haven’t been out to photograph rush hour traffic on the superhighways (yet), but I did want to take a snapshot of some everyday cycling around London. Of people out and about in the city, with their bicycles…

So here’s what I saw from my bike today as I rode north from New Cross to Hackney.

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by James Greig

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