James Daley: Cyclotherapy

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The Independent Online

The deputy leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, Daniel Moylan, made a rather unexpected policy decision last week – unveiling plans to start allowing cyclists to ride the wrong way down one-way streets in his borough. Under this crazy scheme, there will be no road markings or separation from the traffic travelling in the opposite direction. Instead, cyclists will simply be given the freedom of the road.

Although I commend the councillor's logic – cyclists do it anyway, so why not legalise it – I'm not sure such a haphazard approach will make the streets of London's richest borough any safer for us two-wheelers. One-way streets that have a bend in them inevitably have the odd blind corner, and without any road markings or bollards to separate the bikes from the cars, there will almost certainly be some nasty accidents.

Furthermore, while the councillor intends only to pilot his new scheme on a small handful of roads, this lays down the gauntlet to the more militant end of the anti-cycling brigade: take out as many cyclists as you can over the next few months, and you'll get to keep one-way streets to yourselves!

Finally, it strikes me as crazy to start implementing road laws borough by borough in a large city – it sends out a confusing message to cyclists. Either roll the rules out across the capital – even across the country – or better still, not at all.

Cyclist contraflows – where cycle lanes run in the opposite direction to the traffic down a one-way street – are not new. But all of those that I've come across come complete with some kind of pavement or line of bollards, which separate the bicycles from the cars. Anything less will be dangerous for cyclists.

Sadly, the main reason that Kensington and Chelsea are planning to stop short of introducing proper contraflows to their one-way streets is that they don't want to spend the money. I find it hard to believe they can't afford it – this, after all, is the borough which is home to London's wealthiest residents.

But if money really is the issue here, it would be better saving up and doing it properly. I support the idea in principle, but not this half-baked version of it.

I can't help cynically wondering whether the whole scheme has been cooked up because one of the borough's most illustrious residents – the Tory leader, David Cameron – was caught by a tabloid reporter riding the wrong way down a one-way street recently.

If Mr Cameron is choosing to use his influence in cycling, I think he'd do far better to stop his new London Mayor, Boris Johnson, allowing motorbikes back into bus lanes, or persuade Boris to let cyclists turn left at red lights. Pushing ahead with the Kensington and Chelsea scheme will at best anger motorists, and at worst be a danger for those of us on two wheels as well.

cycling@independent.co.uk

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