Even though London's mayor bikes, and even though London had planned to spend a bunch of money on a bicycle plan, and despite the fact that cyclists were getting hit by cars... not much was happening to deliver all that bicycle infrastructure until late last week. London Mayor Boris Johnson on Thursday announced £913 million—or about $1.3 billion—for a 15-mile bicycle highway, a network of bike boulevards, and physically protected cycle tracks to replace painted-on bike lanes. Here's an animation of what the bicycle track along the River Thames will look like, with all those cyclists riding on the wrong damn side:
Now, as every human knows, Seattle is the most specialest snowflake in all the hills and this could never happen here. Bike lanes and transit are easy to build everywhere else—especially Europe, with its thriving economy—but nearly impossible in Seattle because, again, our snowflake is so very special. But there's some similarity between London and Seattle: the politics. There was support for cyclists and pledges to spend money, but apparently little political willpower to do anything. (Likewise, Seattle has a bicycle Master Plan that is fractionally funded, a mayor who bikes, and plenty of people getting hit—but anemic bicycle amenities).
So what helped London tip the scales?
Johnson has always identified as a cyclist, but until very recently he has mostly disappointed bicycling advocates, especially with his “cycle superhighway” implementation. Over the past few years, a robust advocacy effort has led the mayor to change direction, starting with minor changes to existing projects and culminating in this week’s big announcement.
The local press has also played a major role. In the run-up to last year’s election, The Times of London launched a campaign for street safety after one of its reporters was seriously injured in a crash, and mayoral candidates vied to be the most bike-friendly.
As for "robust advocacy" by Seattle's media, the Seattle Times editorial pages are apparently written by a bunch of anti-cyclist neanderthals. I hope they start paying attention to the people who are getting hit by cars and realize that the solution in their checkbooks. And hope that the Cascade Bicycle Club knows that the wind is at their back. As their recent poll found, Seattle voters support cycling, they support giving up lanes for bicycle tracks, and they support paying for it. It's time for some bust-out advocacy to make cycling safer in our special little snowflake of a town.