Underground? Overground? Wombling free!
Today, the Guardian online came with an appealing proposal that is fast gaining momentum: the future of London cycling and pedestrian travel to appear on the Underline!
Star Trek never had it so good, and for many Londoners, I don’t think we saw this coming either. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting thought that throws up as many possibilities, as it does concerns. My first impression was: great, we (the non-daily-motorised travellers) are being marginalised and swept out of sight yet again! But taking a step back and hearing the perspectives from a pedestrian, London cabbie, a cyclist, and the slick marketing vid above, it all makes perfect sense – well a tad more than before. Okay, I still need more convincing.
Anything and everything you want it to be
Just a week on from hearing the possible go-ahead of a Cycling ‘Crossrail’: a structured and supposedly separate cycling lane, that is set to straddle both the north to south, and east to west of the capital; an additional Underline option could have some merit. Let’s look at what could come our way:
First up is breathing space; and I’m not just talking about clean air either. This city is a far cry from what I remember it to be. We seem to be endlessly pushed out by housing prices, only to find ourselves tripping over each other in a rush to get in for work, the school-run, or simply to get to a cafe to catch up with friends. Quite often I’ll see a fellow cyclist or runner and wonder, is this why we do it? To claim back a little of what we’ve lost?
With this proposal, travelling underground, but under our own steam, could mean motorists wouldn’t necessarily feel the pressure to look out for us – as they, and we all do, when we’re behind a wheel. I know what it’s like. I’m sitting there, with only myself to blame for taking the car on my journey, only to find myself stuck in traffic. Hoping beyond reason, that despite being in my ‘safe’ metal bubble, that the cyclists and motorcyclists that I share the road with, will recognise by my driving, that I’m on their side too. No, putting bikes, and their riders, underground won’t alleviate congestion; cycling is far too free to be stuck in a jam, but it can possibly lower the blood pressure of many motorists on a Monday morning.
With the video claiming the need for a 50% increase in transport capacity by 2025, we all better start getting our act together, no matter what means of transport we currently command.
RIP. Akis Kollaros
On the same day this underline project was proposed to the public, a fund to help transport the remains of Akis Kollaros was emailed to this and many London cycling clubs. I may never of known Akis by name, but we most certainly would’ve have met him on the London cycling scene. His tragic passing away on Monday afternoon, the second this year in London, is a stark reminder of how precious life is. So is riding below ground the answer?
I’m not sure. It’s great that we could have an alternative, but just because we’re away from a car or a lorry doesn’t guarantee our safety. Most of my injuries have been caused by fellow cyclists not looking, or being careless and not by a car. My fear is that cycling and walking down an enclosed space, can turn into a race, rather than a pleasurable journey. Although, I’d be very happy to be proved wrong.
Safe – Clean – Inviting
The Underline proposal wants the public us to buy into this project based on these three concepts.
As a Londoner, I’m constantly intrigued by how much knowledge and experience travellers have of this city. My antipodean family are endlessly celebrating the hidden gems of our capital. Everything from homes of historical figures, intimate spaces to enjoy a quality gig, to the friendliest place to hold a brunch, all of which I am clueless about. Now throw in a walk, perhaps a cycle lane, even some tasteful art, or merchandising, and this Underline is sounding more and more attractive to people like me. Safe, clean and inviting – now that’s going to attract a lot more than lycra-clad cyclists. It is possible.
After all, isn’t this one of the many things we’re good at? Just like the Wombles, ‘we make good use of the things that we find’ – even if it’s a underground shaft waiting to rediscovered. Similarly, like the Wombles, we don’t want to just live underground. There’s still going to be a need up-top for everyone. Especially when the sun comes back.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Alternatively, just feel free!