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The Times Applauds Cycling… The Times of London, That Is.

11:38 AM EST on February 23, 2007


Here's an editorial one wouldn't expect to see in The Times: An unabashedly pro-bicycle manifesto anointing cycling as "the cheap, green answer to so many contemporary troubles" and urging city authorities to use congestion-charging revenues to create a first-class cycling infrastructure.

Alas, this remarkable editorial was published not in the New York Times, but in the Times of London. Here in New York City our leading editorial board is busy pushing the police to hand out more traffic tickets to bike riders while debating State Senator Carl Kruger's absurd proposal to fine pedestrians who cross the street while listening to an iPod.

Cycling, the London Times editorial argues, "is a way to reduce stress and demonstrate an environmental conscience at the same time." The modern urban cyclist "is making an elegant and intelligent response to pollution and traffic congestion." The editorial even alludes to Peter Jacobsen's revelatory "safety in numbers" finding, something I've never seen in a mainstream, general-audience publication:

Cycle lanes need to be better protected from motorists. There would also be safety in numbers. At 2 per cent ridership, London lags far behind cities such as Berlin (10 per cent), Copenhagen (20 per cent) and Amsterdam (28 per cent), where the cyclist numbers influence driver behaviour.

Even the obligatory mention of bad biking behavior feels half-hearted and concludes on a rising note:

Those who ride on [sidewalks], who head in the wrong direction down one-way streets, and who smugly jump traffic lights with no care for others, are certainly stoking contempt for this bespoke form of transport. But the majority should not be tarred with that brush. British cyclists are to be admired for their courage, if not always for their manners.

The contrast between London and New York City's civic elite is stark. "Far too many traffic officers fail to hand out tickets to bicyclists who don't follow the rules," the Gray Lady scolded earlier this month, in that ridiculous iPod editorial that, actually, had nothing to do with cycling. The Times' most recent editorial on bicycle policy, Cyclists, the Police and the Rest of Us, seemed to imply that people who ride bikes in New York City are not, well, "the rest of us."

The London Times editorial steers way clear of casting cyclists as The Other. Here's how it wraps:

London has a unified transport authority. It must join up the dots. It is unacceptable for the world's foremost capital city to have a patchwork of cycle routes which peter out timidly on the road to nowhere. It may seem paradoxical that an intermediate technology is now the future. But it would be churlish not to encourage cycling as the cheap, green answer to so many contemporary troubles. May those who cycle be blessed with clean consciences, stronger arteries and safer journeys.

Just so. And may some of us live to see the day when our paper of record dons its glasses, clears its throat and delivers a ringing endorsement of cycling in our city. It's just a matter of time.

Photo: Dave Gorman / Flickr

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