As a fair-weather cyclist - the kind that wonders why everyone else is in such a rush - I'm really at a loss with London's "coordinated" attempts to sort itself out as a great cycling city. Here's the latest campaign, to tackle theft:
LCC's eight-point campaign plan:
1. Creation of a police anti-theft squad A dedicated police team must tackle cycle theft, engaging in pro-active ‘stings’ to find persistent offenders and gangs.
2. Tougher action against selling stolen on websites Websites need tough rules on ID, and sellers must be made to provide real photos and frame numbers.
3. Code of practice for bike shops Bike shops must make proper checks on seller ID and bike provenance. A new code of practice will enable those that sign up to it to demonstrate their good standards.
4. Tougher action against street markets Well-known locations for selling stolen bikes such as Brick Lane market must be policed much more aggressively.
5. A central repository for recovered bikes A central location where people could recover stolen bikes would make it easier to unite owners with the large number of bikes that are recovered.
6. Regular stakeholder meetings Cyclists, police and politicians must meet regularly to ensure that cycle theft is given sufficiently high priority.
7. Increasing secure parking provision Thousands more secure cycle parking spaces need to be built for homes, estates, shops, educational institutions, workplaces and transport hubs.
8. Better education for cyclists Cyclists must be given sensible information to help them protect their bikes, such as registering the frame number online, buying insurance, and using strong locks. They also need tips on avoiding buying stolen bikes.
Why is secure parking for bikes item number 7? An eight-point plan is useless, unless it's set in order of priority. And right now secure infrastructure is item 7. First will come police squads, dealing with cyber crime, canvassing shops with codes of conduct, chasing market holders, building a database, meetings. Unless of course, this list isn't prioritised.
In the Netherlands the reality is that cycle theft is rampant, but most people ride cheap bikes and are used to it, albeit irritated. London's bike boom is a consumer boom as much as it's about getting around - people buying smart bikes and worrying about where to put them. There isn't really any good storage - in Dutch cities there are manned parking stations, there are safe places to park at work and there's plenty of places to hook your bike outside where you need to be. It's not perfect, but it's probably (quite seriously) a five million times better situation than we have in London.
The list, indeed the London Cycling Campaign site, smacks of lots of time spent in brainstorms, or on "advocacy", and no role to play in building infrastructure. The absolutely most important thing that matters if London is to be a great city to cycle in is that infrastructure is reprioritised towards bikes. Most crucially bikes must take priority over pedestrians and cars (which is basically the way it works in Holland - get out of my way, I'm on a bike).
Almost all the lessons we need are close by, in countries like Holland and Denmark. Indeed a study two weeks ago argued that Dutch children were the happiest in Europe - it's not measured, but I have no doubt that a contributing factor is that most cycle to school. Or ride to school with their parents.
Trying to define this stuff ourselves, how London should work as a cycling city, as some kind of exercise in original thought, is a bit like making your own nails to build a fence. Or building your own web browser to display web pages.
We need to gather the best practice lessons fast but step forward, onwards. We don't have the right infrastructure - pathways and storage - and if we're going to build it quickly, when there's no money around, we need to be smart. The London Cycling Campaign website could be about infrastructure and every decision should be visible. Every junction, pavement, post, ramp. Where are improvements planned? What do people want? Which companies are helping co-fund secure storage (in, for example, each office lobby)? Which council budgets, and which taxpayers, are paying for what? Instead we have people trying to change behaviour. In what sounds to me like meetings that will have intangible outcomes. Seven, in fact.Related reading: If Lincoln Cathedral is architecture, what is a bicycle shed (by Joe Simpson) A lesson in business from the French (by Mark Charmer)
Mark Charmer is founder of The Movement Design Bureau, a think tank.