London is less horrible than it was three weeks ago. It’s still crowded. It’s still expensive. It’s still full of people — myself included — who could be nicer on the Tube.
But three weeks ago Cycle Superhighway 2, Cycle Superhighway 3 and Cycle Superhighway 6 were all declared complete. These next-generation Cycle Superhighways have a physical kerb between cyclists and traffic. They are wide enough to ride two abreast. The three I list above cover approximately eighteen miles of Central and Peripheral London.
TFL has made no obvious announcement of this. It’s not been splashed on the front pages of the Metro or the Evening Standard. The published maps remain egregiously bad compared to my Google Maps overlay.
(Most of the credit would be shared between Ken Livingstone, Labour, who recently compared Israel to Hitler, and Boris Johnstone, Tory, who recently compared the EU to Hitler. Perhaps it’s not too surprisingly there’s no-one that wants to carry the publicity ball.)
But those new Cycle Superhighways above meant I cycled 36 miles last week and it was easy. Instead of getting 20 different trains to work in that time I got twelve. Every person on a bike is a person whose armpit is not pressed in your face on the Central line. Last week I barely huffed armpit at all.
What about safety?
Every time I get on a bike I wonder “Over the next year, what are my chances of having an accident?”. The birthday paradox means little bits of risk add up over time. If I had a 1% chance of a cycling accident each day then there’s a 97% chance — yes, ninety-seven percent chance — of having an accident during a single work year. This isn’t idle numerical noodling — fourteen deaths per year make London-as-was a dangerous place to cycle. Black cabs come right up behind you and rev their engines. Van drivers tell you off for not running yellow lights.
The Cycle Superhighways are as calming as slipping into a bath of warm honey. They’re as calming as taking a deep breath and slipping your head underneath the sucrose surface. You feel safe in the knowledge that your house is empty. Your bathroom door is locked. No-one knows you’re in a warm bath full of honey. No-one is ever going to take this peaceful time from you. I cycled down the damn Thames in the blazing rush-hour sunshine this week with no damn garbage trucks within two metres of me. It was glorious.
It was Paris. It was Seattle. It felt like London woken up after years of abusive drinking, looked in the mirror, and silently started shaving. London is looking blearily in the mirror and is thinking “Showering, that sounds good. My good shirt is clean, too — I’ll wear that today.”. London is quietly planning to walk down to the shops today, just to work the ache out of its muscles. It’s probably going to buy a soda. Maybe it’ll phone Paris — no, text Paris, London’s voice is still shot — and ask if Paris has seen Captain America yet. Maybe they could hang out, sober, later this week.
Keep getting slightly less fucking awful, London. I’m rooting for you.