London cyclists set Quentin Willson straight on Twitter yesterday after the motoring journalist and TV presenter tweeted a picture of a stretch of Cycle Superhighway near Parliament Square and queried why no-one was using it.
Great new cycle lane but where are the cyclists? pic.twitter.com/a1vhAAXxt2
— Quentin Willson (@QuentinWillson) October 10, 2016
The reason was revealed by Twitter users including Londonneur, who tweeted a video that began from the view towards Big Ben captured by Willson in his picture then panned round to show that the new lane is blocked by red and white barriers, which also have temporary traffic lights placed in front of them.
— Londonneur (@Londonneur) October 11, 2016
For his pains, Londonneur says he got blocked by the former Top Gear and Fifth Gear presenter, who dreamt up the show Britain’s Worst Drivers, a format expanded to include titles such as Britain’s Worst DIYer and Britain’s Worst Teenager (though not, as yet, Britain’s Worst Cycling Infrastructure Critic).
He wasn’t the only user of the social network to take issue with Willson, however, with others also tweeting pictures from the same location, Great George Street, between Parliament Square (the direction he took his photo in) and Birdcage Walk.
— Dr Morocho (@DrMoroch0) October 11, 2016
— cycleoptic (@cycleoptic) October 11, 2016
Figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that once separated infrastructure is in place and fully open, cyclists – including those encouraged to take to two wheels by the provision of safe routes – will take to it in huge numbers.
For example, cyclists now make up 70 per cent of rush hour traffic on Blackfriars Bridge thanks to the installation of the North-South Cycle Superhighway.
— Herbie Green (@HerbieGreen) October 11, 2016
As some pointed out, depending in time of day and issues such as phasing of traffic lights, it isn't that difficult to take pictures of Cycle Superhighways apparently bereft of cyclists, or indeed roads free of motor vehicles - and the part of the East-West route beyond where Willson took his picture is still a work in progress, with evidence from other routes now open showing that once end-to-end infrastructure is in place, it wil be used.
But that doesn’t stop some elements of the media from seeking to mislead about their popularity with bike riders, with the Daily Mail for example publishing an article in August claiming a Cycle Superhighway at Parliament Square wasn’t being used, only for TfL to point out there wasn’t actually one at that location.
Undaunted, the newspaper has continued its campaign against infrastructure for cyclists, not just in London but throughout the country, running an article last week that was trailed on its front page with the headline “Cycle lane lunacy!” and described them as “The new blight paralysing Britain.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.