Two o’clock on a Saturday morning in Copenhagen and you see hundreds of people leaving bars and heading home on their bikes.
In London, we are not there yet. During a conversation with an officer at the Mayor’s Office who works in the 24 Hour London department, the following areas for improvement were identified:
- Anti-social driving – There is a perception among many drivers that the rules of the road are more malleable at night: speed limits are understood to be 15-20kph higher than what is stipulated for the day. The dominance of professional drivers who have an incentive to speed and of leisure drivers who want to show off their monster machines creates a cocktail of bad driving that is sanctioned by lack of enforcement by the police. Overall it creates a very hostile environment for anyone cycling.
- Indiscriminate parking on cycle lanes – During the day we have taxi drivers who claim they can invade mandatory cycle lanes. At night, the prevalent attitude is that cycle lanes are infrastructure for when the sun shines. This widespread lawbreaking is encouraged by the Police who in their ignorance of the Highway Code, do not enforce Rule 140. This creates a very dangerous environment, when people who ride away from the door zone, are harassed by impatient drivers, high on their self-importance boosted by German horsepower.
- Closure of parks – Go to Hackney Wick on a Friday night and you see the Overground station packed, but hardly anyway cycling home. The reason is simple: Victoria Park is closed and one is forced to ride on hostile roads. It is a mystery why certain authorities think that closing parks at night is a good idea. There are many parks which stay open and there seems no evidence that personal safety is at risk. What is needed is more lighting to make the parks feel safer.
- Some QuietWays don’t feel safe at night – The cowardly strategy by the Khan administration to push cycle routes to back streets is a disservice to those citizens who do not feel safe riding in dark neighbourhoods with low footfall.
- Fear of Theft – Many night venues have inadequate cycle parking facilities and often they are placed in thief-friendly positions, in dark corners or alleyways. Many people are reluctant to cycle at night for fear of not finding their bike when they need to return home.
The advantage of spending time and money on measures to solve the above problems is not only to improve safety but also to shift a certain image of English nightlife of heavy drinking and hooliganism towards a more gentle, more inclusive and more welcoming model.
All images by Copenhagen Cycle Chic