Saturday 08 November 2008
At the end of October, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, finally capitulated in the fight to keep motorcycles out of bus lanes, announcing that an 18-month trial will begin across the capital on 5 January 2009.
Although Boris had been talking about such a move before he was elected in May, the cycling lobby groups had almost convinced him to change his mind. Sadly, it wasn't to be – and next year cyclists will have a new menace to contend with in the few areas of London where they are currently spared the aggression and absent-mindedness of regular motorists.
Motorcycle groups have been begging the Mayor of London to allow them into bus lanes for years – claiming that it would significantly increase motorbikers' safety. This claim, however, was disproven by a recent study commissioned by Ken Livingstone, Boris's predecessor. The report concluded that there was no evidence that allowing motorcycles into bus lanes would reduce the number of biker accidents. Furthermore, it said there was anecdotal evidence that such a move would increase the number of accidents involving pedal cyclists.
Motorcyclists always refute this. But even if I was to give them the benefit of the doubt, I still think Boris is wrong to push ahead. For a start, I'm glad motorbikers still get held up in traffic – maybe it'll make them think twice about using their vehicles. Although motorbikes might be more environmentally friendly than cars, they're no match for cycling – and motorbikers get none of the health benefits that come with cycling. By allowing them into bus lanes, Boris is encouraging the use of motorised vehicles, at the expense of cyclists.
Secondly, scooter-riders and motorbikers are often intimidating to those of us on push-bikes – using their powerful engines to accelerate in the tiniest of gaps, and often muscling cyclists off the road. So even if they wouldn't cause more cyclist collisions by being allowed into bus lanes, they would certainly leave more cyclists feeling unsafe.
It's perverse that a non-cycling Mayor with a fear of bikes (Ken Livingstone) did more for cyclists during his time in power than his successor, who's known for his love of bikes. Sadly, Boris isn't nearly as environmentally minded as he professes to be.
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