In praise of Boris – the cycling enthusiast

In praise of Boris – the cycling enthusiast

Getting people on bikes could be his and the pandemic’s great legacy

What might be looked back on as one of the biggest decisions when the lockdown was being introduced in March was to include bike shops amongst the retailers that were specifically allowed to remain open. Quite what role Boris had in that move I don’t know but it is hard to see that exception being made if someone else had been elected Tory leader last year.

The impact has been extraordinary. TranportSec Grant Shapps reported yesterday that the pandemic has led to 100% increase in cycle usage on our roads which is a huge jump. Bike shops are packed all day and those wanting to buy new bikes are finding there is a big waiting list.

This has been driven by the exercise exemption in the initial lockdown rules, the restrictions on car driving which have made the roads safer and, of course, the good weather.

On top of that there are all the worries about catching the virus while using public transport which is probably going to remain for many months if not years. Cycling is not just a means of exercise but a convenient form of transportation for many trips.

Earlier in the year the new government’s transport strategy made significant provision for improving the cycling infrastructure in towns and cities with the objective of increasing cycling use. Johnson himself has talked about creating cycling environment in cities and town like we see in the Netherlands.

It is important to note that the Dutch cycling experience did not happen by accident. It came as a result of big political decisions to make cities cycle friendly at the expense of the car. Boris wants to do the same.

This should not have surprised us. The big legacy from Johnson’s eight year period as London Mayor was the huge investment in cycling infrastructre to make it feel safer. There was also the Boris bike rental scheme that continues to flourish.

In the late 1970 when I was working for the BBC at Broadcasting House I used to cycle from Teddington in South West London every day – a 24 mile round trip. It wasn’t easy given the conditions at the time but I got the cycling bug which has stayed with me. I have remained an enthusiast ever since.

I might disagree with Boris on many things but his comitment to cycling as a form of transport it to be applauded.

Mike Smithson

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