वेलायतको लण्डन महानगरका मेयर साइकलमा सरर, हाम्रा मेयर लाई करोडको गाडी चढ्ने रहर !
संसारकै समृद्दिको चुचुरोमा पुगेको वेलायतको राजधानी लण्डन महानगरका तत्कालीन मेयर बोरिस जोहन्सन सरर साईकल चढेर हिड्थे (फोटो सन् २०११) ।
तर हाम्रा महानगरका मेयरहरुलाई पदस्थापन नहुदै करोडौँका गाड़ी चाहिने? हाम्रा मेयर साहेबले बाटो बनाऔँ भन्दा जनताको पैसा नाश हुन्छ भनेर अटेरी गर्छन्: तर जनताको सुको काम नगर्दै करोडौँका गाड़ीमा यिनकै आँखा लाग्छ।
सिंहदरबार गाउँ पसेको गफ गर्दै देशको ढुकुटी रित्याउन खोज्ने ट्रेक्टर चढ्ने हैसियत भएकाहरुलाई जनताको काम गर्नुपर्छ भन्ने चेत कहिले खुल्ला? अब बिकल्प रोज्ने कि गाली मात्रै गर्ने?
Will Boris Johnson’s Vision for Cycling deliver what it’s promised?
But if a very small number of London’s better off residents are to be, at least in the short term, the main beneficiaries of £913m pounds of public money which could have been allocated to helping much larger numbers of their less fortunate peers – notably, bus passengers, whom Johnson hasn’t much troubled himself with during his time at City Hall – it is particularly important to examine if his approach will deliver the benefits proclaimed and do so as cost-effectively as possible.
There are already grounds for doubts. Local planning authorities and London-wide business groups with track records for helping cycling and clear interests in helping it further have been deeply unimpressed with what they regard as a counter productive, bullying attitude from within City Hall – one they suspect is informed by Johnson’s urgent need to have some sort of trophy achievement to boast of before he steps down next May. Speeding the wheels of bureaucracy is fine, but rushing important decisions out of political expediency can lead to wasted resources and poor results.
One of the more conspicuous manifestations of the Vision so far is the bus stop bypass installed on the north side on Whitechapel High Street, where the fabulous wealth of the Square Mile meets the rather different world of Tower Hamlets. It is ugly, a litter trap, widely ignored by the very cyclists it is provided for and plainly penalizes pedestrians and bus passengers. It would be harsh to damn this piece of infrastructure as nothing more than a rat run for City Boys gouged out of public space at the expense of some of London’s poorest people, but such a conclusion will not be wholly dismissed by those attuned to the politics of street space allocation. The disappointing thing about some cycling activists, many of whom regard themselves as radical world-savers, is that such a reading of the scene would never enter their heads in the first place. For them, it’s all about Me – Me and My Bicycle.
Perhaps, in time, everything will settle down in this small but symbolic piece of the much larger network of protected and designated cycle routes and junction changes to come. Maybe the East End bus stop bypass tableau will eventually exemplify the mutual respect shown between cyclists of both sexes, bus-users and pedestrians I witnessed during the summer in Copenhagen, a city often mentioned as a model London should follow.
It is easy to see why that is, but it remains to be seen if Johnson’s plans will nurture a cycling culture of similar civility that embraces a much larger and more varied London public or, to be pessimistic, encourage two-wheel boy racers in Wiggo kits to treat strips of London’s roads as private racetracks. Better cycling conditions can certainly be a big part of making London’s streets more hospitable, but that doesn’t mean cyclists should always be given whatever they want at the expense of everything else that can also contribute to that goal.
The most recent Travel for London report sets out with helpful clarity how TfL intends to monitor the Johnson programme’s outcomes (see from page 105). These include improving safety, persuading people to switch to cycling from other transport modes, attracting people of all ages and backgrounds to ride bikes and “creating better spaces for everyone”. These are admirable aims. Will they be met? Time will tell. There is a long, long way to go.