Cycle Safari – but at a safe distance #VirtualSafari

I knew some day I would get back to cycle blogging. I never did that much in the golden era, but at least I knew to scotch rumours of mad ideas like cycle lanes being built on the Euston Road.


Which is to say that as someone with a professional and personal interest in transport in London, I have had the full gamut of emotions watching London’s approach to making walking and cycling safer in a pandemic get underway. Change has simultaneously been too slow and faster than ever seen, faster to announce and yet felt slower to build, and with announcements of some kind almost daily yet left me waiting for ages on some actual news. It would be nice if this wasn’t against backdrop of tens of thousands dead and more suffering lifetime complications from a pandemic as the economy collapses and the integrated transport authority for London gets bankrupted by the government. It would be great. But we are where we are.

It’s fair to say that in the initial days and weeks of the pandemic, changing the streets was not an obvious priority. The concerns of transport were about how to support a huge growth in hospitals, in ambulances. TfL got stuck in to supporting the Nightingale hospital for example, adding lots of buses to the rather surprisingly hard to reach area that is the Royal Docks. But time passed, and the Mayor and TfL came up with a brand (Streetspace), and thus a TfL project was born. Just don’t call it Streetscape or I’ll frown.

In May, Park Lane got a cycle lane, overnight.

Alright, not overnight. The Deputy Mayor for transport would like to say getting a cycle lane on Park Lane took four days, but I’m not sure that really adds up. Maybe the first poles and usable lane took four days, but actually the lane took a good while. The starting pistol was fired on Streetspace on 23rd April, and the lane itself was in place by June 6th. Full nitpick at the end of the post

Now, new infrastructure means going to take a look at it. Getting a group of cycling nerds together and huddling together closely, lusting over bollards. Alas, that doesn’t really fit with physical distancing. So my friends in the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and I discussed the idea of doing a video, in which I would ramble on about what Park Lane is now like and so on. This is that video:

And here’s the idea. You can make one yourself. Go on. It’s quite easy. The basic point is not to get a cycle camera and spend ages thinking and planning, it’s to get a decent explanation out there of what’s possible. You can use your phone, you can just film at the side of the road. You don’t need to know the fine engineering details, and you have the right to remain silent. If you’d rather, do it as a twitter post or thread (and use the hashtag #VirtualSafari):

We’re going to have the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain AGM virtually later this month on Friday 31st July. You are all very welcome to come, but also you are also welcome to video new temporary infrastructure where you are and share a short (ideally 5 minutes-ish) video of it. Ideally just shoot five minutes and then add some narration – if you need software to do this and a budget of £0 – I’d recommend VideoPad on windows and iMovie on Apple. Everyone else gets to scratch their beard at how awesome their Linux install is, or use some mad phone app.

We’ll collate the best ones and watch them together at the end of the month, when we have the AGM. We’re a bunch of cycling kerb nerds who wonder what on earth is happening away from the roads we can see, and we think capturing a bit of video right now will be very valuable – both now and in the future.

As a cautionary tale against making a longer video – you can have the 12 minute video of me getting towards Park Lane to finish.

There will be more videos… but I’ll try and keep them under 6 minutes!

A bunch of tweets at the end of the post to nitpicking the idea Park Lane was built in four days from idea to execution because I’m mean: