James Daley: Cyclotherapy

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The Independent Online

Cyclists in London were handed some more good news by our new best friend, Ken Livingstone, last week, when he announced he was backing away from plans to allow motorbikes and scooters into bus lanes. Having spent more than three years analysing whether so-called "powered two-wheelers" should be allowed to encroach on a space that has rightly been reserved for cyclists and buses until now, TfL's road-safety unit thankfully concluded that there was no statistical evidence to support the claim that such a policy would reduce road casualties. In fact, there was some anecdotal evidence to suggest that casualties among pedestrians and cyclists would increase if motorbikes were allowed into bus lanes.

Although some towns have taken the decision to open up bus lanes to motorbikes permanently, I'm relieved they've ruled out such a move in the capital – where I do most of my cycling. It's bad enough having to share the space with taxis (who in my opinion should be made to sit in line with the rest of the traffic). But motorbikes are a particular menace – usually armed with too much power and not enough control and common sense to drive safely in a busy urban environment.

Many motorbikers already ignore the fact that it's illegal to ride in bus lanes. Not only is it crucial to keep it an offence to do so, but it would be nice to see the rules more tightly enforced. Bus lanes are one of the few places where cyclists can take refuge from aggressive motorcyclists, and if Ken is serious about increasing the number of pushbikers on the roads, he needs to ensure that less confident cyclists feel safe in bus lanes.

By and large, I find bus drivers are relatively courteous to cyclists. The biggest problem with bus lanes, however, is that most of the ones in London seem only to operate during rush hour – leaving cars, motorbikes and even heavy-goods vehicles free to use them for most of the rest of the day.

In the suburbs, most bus lanes only operate from 7am till 10am and from 4pm till 7pm – yet there are thousands of bike journeys that take place outside these hours. You won't find many people in the capital who knock off work at 5pm or 6pm each day.

I usually start my journey home at about 7pm, by which time it's a free-for-all in the bus lanes. If anything, they become more dangerous for cyclists than the regular lanes of traffic at these times, as most cars continue to stay outside of the bus lanes (most drivers are unaware that they're now open to all traffic), except for a few impatient drivers who know the system and decide to undertake the rest of the traffic queue at high speed.

London's a 24-hour city, and people work at all hours of the day and night. Now that Ken's taken the sensible step of keeping motorbikes out of bus lanes, he needs to go one step further and make all bus lanes operate 24/7.

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