Attention to Detail

Lambeth bridge northbound cycle lane 1

Lambeth Bridge bike lane before

Cycling over Lambeth Bridge on our trip to London this weekend – once I had got over nearly being wiped out by a bus – I was struck by a small detail. The bridge used to have ludicrously narrow bike lanes on it, so narrow they were dubbed the ‘worst cycle lanes in London‘ but they were widened last year (coincidentally just days before we launched the Cycling Embassy on that very corner). And not just widened. One of the really scary things about those bike lanes was that they took you right over the expansion joint of the bridge, just at the point where it ran parallel with the road, forming a lovely trap for an unwary wheel. On Friday I noticed that joint had been filled with some rubbery material that presumably still allowed the bridge to move a fraction in the heat – but which would no longer grab a bike wheel if you were too busy concentrating on not being killed by a bus to avoid it. Which is good. I mean, it’s not as good as giving bikes their own space on the road, away from all the killer buses, but it shows that someone who was responsible for putting a bike lane on the bridge had thought enough about it to remove a hazard.

Whoever that person was, I must say you don’t detect their hand at work too often anywhere else. Central London is now full of handy little cut throughs for bikes which allow you to go the wrong way down one-way street or out of dead ends – great for making the bike the fastest way to get around but designed in a way that leaves them a bit lacking. For instance, you can cut through onto Waterloo Bridge from Covent Garden really easily – bikes even get their own traffic light. On the way south, the other half saw the green light, nipped across the road and promptly ran a red light as he got onto Waterloo Bridge. Why? Because he’s used to driving, and if you’re in a car you’d never get a green light that let you onto a junction and then a red light that stopped you from getting off it. On a bike? Well, who really cares? Bikes are going to run the lights anyway. And coming back, we took a nice little short cut that let us through a closed-off street and then I nearly cycled the wrong way down a one-way street. Why? Because there was no no entry sign to warn me. Well, why would there be, no cars would be coming that way… no wonder bikes in London seem to break every rule of the road. Sometimes it’s hard even to know what you should be doing, unless you’re doing exactly what the cars do.

Anyway, despite the best efforts of the traffic engineers and London’s drivers, we survived. I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for another 15+-mile trip through London traffic on a bike again in a hurry, but I’m glad we brought our bikes, if only so we could enjoy getting around in the blissful conditions when they’d closed off most of the roads for the weekend. Oh, and so the contrast with the final ride back from Bigtown Station to home, with barely a car on the road, could be enjoyed in all its glory. Although I feel duty bound to note that it did start raining the moment we set off…

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2 Responses to Attention to Detail

  1. emma c says:

    That bike lane really does look wholely uninviting; tricky groves, good high kerb to riquochet off into the traffic, and an angry red line down the middle. Nice.

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