The transport situation in London has always been a disgrace. But the thing that has caught my attention recently is the sad situation for the few people hard-core (or stupid) enough to mount a bike and brave the streets of London alone and without protection just in order to save the environment (or a few pennies).
On many an occasion I have attemted to get from point A to point B in London within an acceptable amount of time. These numerous occasions have frequently left me disappointed to say the least, and more than a little stressed.
It is always said London is full of history. But nothing can convey the meaning of that better than living in the city itself. Everything about London is Victorian. The technology used for congestion charging (taking photos of cars and getting monkeys to write down number plates) is Victorian and that used for the tube is Medieval.
Let me try to explain what goes through my mind whenever I plan a journey. Walking is out of the question – it would take forever and be about as good for my lungs as smoking ten cigarettes at the same time, not to mention the broken bones from being run over. Driving in London is equally dangerous, this time owing to the risk of high blood pressure, lateness and the associated anger caused, and the occasional desperate idiot on the road and the associated dangers. The tube is out of the question; just listen to the surprised note in the announcers’ voices whenever they declare there is a ‘good service on the District Line’. The only alternative is cycling which I only began considering recently and almost immediately dropped as an alternative since London is built to combine quite neatly all its crap into a single vehicle. The second you venture onto the street you are honked at by some 18-wheeler accelerating towards you like in Duel while simultaneously verbally abused by a cigarette-smoking idiot gesturing at you while overtaking on the inside lane. While you swerve to avoid the greater of the two evils you are run over by a bendy bus and end up in hospital. After you recover you discover your bike to be stolen and receive a fine for swerving into a bus lane, and to add further insult to injury you discover pieces of your bike (or perhaps it in its entirety) to be stolen. Finally you die at the age of thirty of lung cancer. Such is the life of a cyclist in London.
Fortunately I note steps are already being taken to counter this. London is currently being made such a miserable place to drive in that no driver in his or her right mind would even dare to venture within its labyrinth. Such a mess of one-way systems has been created that one might run out of petrol before finding a way out, and the designing of the parking system has been delegated to a person sufficiently intelligent to understand how a phone can be used to run a pay service but not quite smart enough to grasp the idea of actually providing that service (to any acceptable standards). I applaud these changes and hope to see London clear of all traffic by 2012; I guarantee if things continue as they are, this vision will become a reality.