London now views bicycles as a form of mass transit, and the ancient city is planning a cycling superhighway along the banks of the Thames River to make bike commuting in and out of the city more convenient and safer. It hopes the investment in bicycle infrastructure will encourage more people to ride their bikes to work, relieving the epic levels of congestion in the city center.
Mayor Boris Johnson told the BBC last year that; “Getting more people on to their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves.” Boris has been an outspoken proponent of cycling as a means of mass tranit, and he thinks drivers of pollution-emitting vehicles should pay through the nose to drive through London. There’s even been ideas like an elevated bike-only highway to alleviate congestion, though the street-level project seems a lot more “grounded” in reality. Not everyone is happy about the plan though.
London’s taxi owners in particular are threatening legal action to block the proposed bicycle superhighway. They complain that bicyclists are just a bunch of noisy loudmouths who are given too much attention by the government, and are a danger to themselves and others. That’s a bit short-sighted, especially since less traffic congestion would make cabbies jobs a lot easier.
It’s about more than just pollution though; London’s population may be exceeding the limits of its transit system. London’s Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, has warned that overcrowding on the public transport system could lead to riots. “If we want to avoid disorder or people taking to their cars to get to work – causing even more congestion – then investing in cycling superhighways like these is an absolute must.” It’s hard to imagine riots on city buses, especially if you’ve ever seen the orderly way the English line-up (or “queue” as they call it) for mass transit.
The proposed bike route will add about 6 minutes to the time it takes to drive across the city, which makes some Londoners unhappy. But a study of London traffic shows that the average speed in the city center during the time of horse drawn carriages was 3.5 mph. Today, with all the big red buses and modern traffic improvements, the average speed of traffic in the city center is still about 3.5 mph.
Any ordinary person on a second hand bicycle can top that!