Olympic lanes: bliss it is to be alive!
The Olympic lanes across London send a powerful signal across all Britain’s cities about the art of the possible. I set off this morning from a meeting in Highgate, north London, and cycled down to our studios in the Kings Cross area.
This is a route with regular bottlenecks that snake traffic up every major road you can see. Today the pavements thronged with pedestrians walking to work, the streets were dominated by cyclists and what traffic there was made up of largely unoccupied taxis and small delivery vans.
Some businesses to which I have spoken have organised early morning and evening deliveries to avoid adding to, and suffering from, any jams.
It happens that this has been brought about by the installation of Olympic lanes. But it could just as easily have been a day when for the sheer easing of the urban traffic madness a completely new approach was adopted.
What the Olympic traffic scheme tells us is that for it to work there can be no obstruction, minimal traffic lights, minimal right and left turns to keep trunk routes moving.
As a cyclist I have no objection to being banned from these lanes or roads. (Just as, as a driver, I have no objection to being fined £130 because I will quite simply never go near them in a car).
Many drivers have decided not to come near central London in a car. They must be encouraged to develop this habit.
There are no votes lost in developing proper transport strategies. When Ken Livingstone researched the potential of a congestion charge, he found that fewer that 15 per cent of car journeys in central London were undertaken by people actually living in London. Hence it was possible to introduce congestion charge without electoral damage.
The same would undoubtedly be true if the private car were heavily restricted from ever entering central London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, at all.
Today I have seen London buses at speed bearing significant cargos of comfortable humans. According to Government statistics (Defra), just under 6 per cent of the UK land mass is covered in urban development (staggering figure!). Yet according to the Office for National Statistics, some 90 per cent of the population of England and Wales are town or city dwellers.
Is it any wonder that roads are jammed up with traffic?
If our urban centres are to be saved we need to follow where the Olympic lanes lead.
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In previous blogs: Jon Snow’s manifesto for safer cycling