When Will We Stop Lorries Killing Cyclists?

As another cyclist is killed by a lorry in central London, Jack Thurston asks whether it’s time to take a harder line to make the city’s streets safer. Featuring Cynthia Barlow of RoadPeace, former bike messenger Bill Chidley and Mike Cavenett of the London Cycling Campaign, which has recently proposed a new design for lorries working in London.

Find out what – if anything – your borough is doing to make roads safer for cyclists.

Plus news of Jack’s new book, Lost Lanes: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Southern England.

Turning back the clock to 1948

Today, in an evidence session before Parliament, Chris Boardman said Britain’s 2012 Olympic legacy should be a return to the levels of cycling last seen in 1948, the previous time Britain hosted the Olympic Games. It’s an appealing proposition, and more so if accompanied by a return to 1948 style on two wheels. Check out Eileen Sheridan, a star cyclist of the time, in action:

Apart from being more stylish, what was cycling like back in 1948? A couple of graphs tell the story very well. 1948 was one of the final years in which British people rode more miles by bike than they drove by car:

Cycling v motoring in Britain, 1949-2010

Not so long after 1948 began the great extinction of cycling in Britain, in tandem (excuse the pun) with the nation’s blossoming love affair with the motor car:

Cycling v motoring in Britain, 1949-2010

The two trends cannot be separated. The more cars there are on the roads, the less viable those roads are for everyday cycling. We’ll never construct a whole parallel network of cycling-only, but taking away carriageway space on busier roads and setting it aside for cyclists is an essential step towards a rehabilitation of two-wheeled travel, as is reducing speeds and volumes of motorised traffic wherever this can be done. Encouraging cycling is a hopeless task without taking serious steps to tame the car. And that’s what’s needed if we’re to turn the clocks back to 1948.

Podcast Special: The Gospel According to St Grant

Grant Petersen thinks most cyclists need to ‘unrace themselves’, that is to say, stop following what professional racing cyclists do. Instead we should all ride more comfortable bikes in more comfortable clothes and be more relaxed about the whole experience. He’s written a book called Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike and, in an extended interview, he tells Jack Thurston exactly what he means.

Grant Petersen is a highly regarded bicycle designer, formerly of Bridgestone USA and founder and owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works in northern California.

To Copenhagen, City of Cyclists

A trip to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, city of stylish cyclists, where Jack Thurston meets Mikael Colville-Andersen, the force behind Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize. We talk about how a single street photograph set him on a new path of bicycle advocacy, fashion and city planning consulting. And lots and lots of blogging.

Voting Bike at the London Mayoral Election

Bike blogger Mark Ames joins Jack and Jen to talk about this week’s elections for London Mayor. Is there a cycling vote? Which candidate is best? Views from blogger Danny Williams, journalist Sonia Purnell, Julian Sayerer of Londoners on Bikes and Mustafa Arif of the London Cycling Campaign

Photo by Mark Ames

The Bike Show feeder ride for #TheBIGRide

Tomorrow’s the London Cycling Campaign Big Ride, which aims to be the biggest ever mobilisation of cyclists (and pedestrians and rollerstakters) on the streets of London. There are feeder rides from every corner over the capital, read about them here.

If you want to join a probably small but perfectly formed Bike Show peloton, then join us for a gentle roll into town, with a cafe stop en route and a pint and a bite afterwards. There’s too much fussin’ and fightin’ on the streets of this city. To bring a little peace and harmony we’ll meet at the wonderful Buddhist Peace Pagoda by the River Thames in Battersea Park, at 10am.

If you’re coming, let us know in the comments. Or over on Facebook.

In the year 1949…

The People’s Republic of China is officially proclaimed, following the victory of the Communist Party forces in the civil war.

Winston Churchill makes a landmark speech in support of the idea of a European Union.

George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is published.

Albert II, a rhesus monkey, becomes the first primate to enter space, on a US V-2 rocket, but is killed on impact on his return journey.

Policemen in Liverpool protest about the reduction of the cycle allowance they get for riding their own bicycles on the beat from 5 shillings a week to 2 shillings a week.

Swiss cyclist Armin Von Büren wins the Swiss national track championships as his wheel collapses as he crosses the finishing line in a high speed sprint. The miraculous photograph above freezes forever the split second when Von Büren’s front wheel has collapsed and shed its tyre but he has yet to hit the deck.

1949 is also the last year in which the British people travelled more miles by bicycle than they travelled by motor car. In that year, on average, people in Britain travelled 305 miles a year by bicycle and 261 miles per year by car. The statistics are from the Department of Transport.

1949 was the beginning of the period of the Great Extinction of cycling in the British Isles. The motor car and the fuel required to move it became steadily more available and affordable. Politicians and planners decided that personal mobility was unequivocally a good thing and that British roads were for cars, not bicycles.

Cycling v motoring in Britain, 1949-2010

The same figures, but with miles cycled plotted on a separate axis, to aid comprehension:

Cycling v motoring in Britain, 1949-2010

In 2010, the average distance British people travel by bicycle annually is 50 miles and the average distance they travel by motor car is 3,966 miles.

If, as some suggest, Britain is experiencing a bicycle boom, there is a long way yet to go.