OPINION: Highgate cyclist Elisabeth Anderson writes in support of CS11

Columnist Elisabeth Anderson who lives in Camden Town

Columnist Elisabeth Anderson who lives in Camden Town - Credit: Archant

I ride a bicycle. I also walk, take the bus, occasionally drive, ride a motorcycle, or use the Tube

I’m one of London’s 8.674 million residents, living in Camden for eight years, and working near Regent’s Park.

In 2014, 432 cyclists were seriously injured or killed in London but this isn’t the only issue we face. A King’s College study showed nearly 9,500 people die prematurely every year in London from fine particulate and nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Pause for a moment to consider how many people that is – 9,500. Also consider the people suffering with weight issues who would benefit from cycling on a connected network of cycle ways rather than piecemeal sections interspersed with busy and dangerous junctions.

I used to be a vehicular cyclist; exercising the right to use the full road. The theory is that your cycle is a vehicle but, importantly, your cycle is treated as a vehicle by others. But it’s clear where problems may lie with this; you need to be in the middle of a lane, assertive, fast and strong. Would I ask children to cycle like this in traffic? No, I wouldn’t.

What we’re actually saying is not everybody is given the chance to cycle. Only those with the physical ability and assertiveness can.

You may think that you do need great physical ability but many disabled people are able to cycle perfectly well but find it much harder to walk or negotiate public transport.

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TfL and Camden Council have a tough job to do. There has been some vehement and often vitriolic opposition to these schemes but to not build safe options for people to cycle, to leave things as they are, provides diminishing returns.

If not CS11 then what? There have been no credible alternatives which support the increasing numbers of people choosing to walk or cycle.

The fear of change is understandable but to blame cycle infrastructure for pollution or gridlock is absurd; demonstrated by pollution data. We know what causes pollution and we know what causes gridlock.

Cycle infrastructure is key to enabling people to cycle…all people. Some of the decisions we must make will be difficult. But we must make them. We must be brave. We must look forward.

Somebody asked me “Why should you get cycle lanes?”. In truth I don’t actually need them. I’m fine. I can handle the times I’m scared, I can handle being abused and insulted, threatened, intimidated, knocked off my bicycle, my bones broken.

I can handle sprinting away from the lights to keep myself safe and I have that second sense you develop from years of riding where you know, by an engine sound, if a vehicle is a danger to you. I’m fast. I’m strong. I’m fine. But it’s not about me. It’s about everybody, and not until everybody can cycle safely – no matter their level of fitness, age, confidence, where they live, or physical abilities – can we say we really have a city that works for people.