Cycling in London after the GLC had gone

In an earlier post I wrote I looked at the impact of the GLC on cycle facilities in Hammersmith and Fulham using an archive film someone had posted to YouTube and some of my own research. Here after a bit of delving into the excellent Thames News YouTube account is a bit of what happened next, based on two clips from that archive.

Firstly, we go to 1984, when the GLC was just on the verge of being wound up. London Cycling was campaigning with a clear message that investment wasn’t enough and that we should copy what worked elsewhere.

The report is practically an ideal summation of the classic arguments:

  • more bikes bought than cars in the previous year
  • bicycle vulnerable in London traffic and accidents up 11% in 1983
  • separation of people on bike from traffic at the most dangerous areas
  • and a need to copy the Dutch model.

At the time there was still quite some level of cycling in London though such as the lady machinist in the background at this Ford plant in Dagenham. (if you watch the clip very carefully you’ll see the woman on the left has a bike as well.) The tradition of cycling to work in factories was not yet dead.


But what happened next was more regression. Some of the GLC built facilities did not survive and in the following clip from 1986 activists are demonstrating at the loss of one on Westminster Bridge. A crossing that allowed people on bikes to avoid the gyratory south of Westminster Bridge was removed. This was in the time of a peak in cycle fatalities.

For a protest that apparently only lasted a few minutes it seems rather impressive coverage again. It’s also quite noticeable that the campaigners don’t all seem that confident of their protest, unsurprisingly as they only have about 40 or so and have to ride in circles to make any kind of an impact. Though it is also strangely staged with the ride of bikes up the facility at the end presumably just to pad the report and unless the microphone was amazingly good the van driver shouting is surely dubbed!

It’s all rather more cheering than what the reports of the 1990s show… more on that later. But to have an optimistic note, now, thirty years later safe space for cycling is going on the other end of Westminster Bridge and may soon follow on the bridge itself.


One thought on “Cycling in London after the GLC had gone

  • Wolf Simpson

    Isn’t it interesting that the same message been said for over 30yrs & Dutch infra mentioned even back then & still the Government system just doesn’t get it!!!

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