When Bicycles and Buses Collide


Cyclists near Buckingham Palace.

by James A. Bacon

My favorite London bicycling story so far comes from the London Evening Standard, which wrote of a bus driver ogling a female pedestrian who failed to notice a cyclist and hit him. That was only one of 25 incidents involving cyclists in complaints lodged with Transport for London over a fortnight last August. In a metropolis of 8.5 million dedicated to building a system of multimodal transportation in narrow streets, I suppose such incidents should come as no surprise.

bike_laneLondon is a bicycle-friendly city, and cyclists are seen with some frequency. Local authorities have done a commendable job of building bicycle lanes; there are even two Cycle Superhighways providing easy access to the central city. And under a new seven-year, £51 million sponsorship by Santander Bank (taken over from Barclay’s), the bus share system is undergoing an expansion. The bike-share stations can be found all over the region, and there is one about a block from our apartment.

According to another article in my new favorite authoritative source on London urbanism, the London Evening Standard, proximity to bike-share stations has joined schools and underground train stations as amenities that drive real estate values.

An unresolved issue is where to park the bikes. In our Earl’s Court neighborhood, which is rich in ornamental ironwork fences, people bolt their bikes to the ironwork — and homeowners don’t like it. I’ve seen at least a dozen signs threatening to haul away bicycles attached to private fences.

chainsIn a city as large and dense as London, there is no perfect system. Cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians and property owners cannot all be fully accommodated. Trade-offs must be made. While I’m a huge fan of bicycles as a transportation mode, I don’t think they should rule the streets. For every cyclist one sees on the streets of London, there are hundreds of cars and hundreds of pedestrians. I’ve counted more of the ubiquitous red buses than cyclists. It’s great to have bicycles as a transportation option, but London could never evolve into a cyclist’s paradise like Amsterdam or Copenhagen without a multibillion-pound reworking of the urban fabric. Even so, it beats most American cities by a country mile.

Update from the London Evening Standard: A truck driver, 53-year-old Barry Mcyer, is facing jail time for running a red light and striking and killing a woman cyclist. The woman was one of 13 cyclists killed in London in 2013.

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4 responses to “When Bicycles and Buses Collide

  1. re: country mile

    how would you characterize the biggest differences between Loundon and the US?

    is it infrastructure or people’s attitudes and behaviors or what?

  2. part of what makes London different is a Cordon Toll and a hefty one at that (I assume it’s still in place).

    that not only ostensibly reduces auto congestion -but one might think it would also give bikes improved mobility and access – as well as encourage their use for folks who don’t have cars or find bikes better than cars since they have improved access.

  3. We haven’t had any meaningful conversations with Brits beyond who’re you going to vote for ? (Big election coming up!) I’ve been reading the local newspapers, though. There is a much broader societal commitment to what we would call smart growth. Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party mayor of Richmond, has championed investment in bicycle infrastructure and parks based on what I’ve read. English Conservatives might be considered RINO in the U.S.

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