Monday, November 5, 2012

The Big Ride Event: People’s voice for safer bicycle riding in London

To make London more livable and street friendly for bicycles, approximately 10,000 people participated in what is called the Big Ride Event. Organized in the month of April, just before the mayoral elections; citizens of London gathered together to express their concern for making London safer for bike rides.
The success of the event was not an easy one. Riders rode against the ever raining weather of London. It was a spectacular sight to witness the four mile long traffic route reserved for the event, decorated with bells, whistles, and balloons. For a while the entire lane was transformed into a red and white alley, where individuals, families, kids, teens, and even the elderly were seen dressed in red and white. They carried sign boards reading “I want safe streets for bikes in London; I am going to the Big Ride.”
This event is quite inspired by the Dutch, and now people of London, wish to follow in their footsteps. A campaign by the name “Love London, Go Dutch” became very popular during the Big Ride event. People are now demanding London to have proper cycling infrastructure for the streets of London, which would encourage more people to walk and cycle.
Simply cycling and walking is not the purpose for this large scale event. The main underlying proposition behind this event was to promote cleaner, safer, healthier and happier London. And, this would not be possible if vehicles keep treading the streets. The way ahead is cycles and walking.
The politicians, who up to now have remained oblivion to the need for cycling infrastructure, have as well been given a strong message that people of London are serious about what they ask for. If countries like Denmark and Netherlands, can successfully install high-quality infrastructure for cycling, why could London not?
Most people are hesitant about using bikes on the streets of London due to heavy traffic or unsafe riding zones. Many would switch to this mode of transportation if they had safer paths to ride on. Yes, this would be a new innovation, but looking at the current world scenarios, where you see most developed world cities with proper infrastructure in place, governed with rules and laws, you’ll agree that London should not be left behind.
And, the story of London streets does not end with putting in place bike friendly alleys; it also needs to be backed by measures like limiting the speed of such lanes to a maximum of 20mph, construction of a good number of residential and shopping streets across the city, especially Greater London and other similar measures. This when corroborated with separate lanes for vehicular traffic and cyclist, can work well for a city, which remains cluttered with heavy traffic for most part of the year.
Since the whole purpose of demanding cycle safe streets for London is to enhance the quality of life of its people, a harmony can also needs to be established with the pedestrians’. One cannot encroach into their space for creating new lanes for cycles. The development authorities need to plan holistically and create a balance for vehicular traffic, cycles and pedestrians.
With all this in mind, and clear cut demands from the politicians and higher authorities, people expressed their concerns through the platform of the Big Ride event. If 10,000 people could be motivated to take on the streets with their bicycles, braving rain and cold and other adversities, you can well imagine their seriousness for the cause.  

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