Will Norman, London’s cycling and walking commissioner, says that efforts to get more women and people from ethnic minorities cycling need to be stepped up.
He told The Independent that white, middle class males represent the typical cyclist in the capital, and accepted that London’s Cycle Superhighways were viewed by many as a means of getting “middle-aged men cycling faster around the city.”
With people from ethnic minorities making up just 15 per cent of London cyclists, and women accounting for one in four bike riders in the city, Norman said he may introduce targets to promote diversity.
“There is a problem with cycling and the way it is perceived of getting middle-aged men cycling faster around the city, which is not the objective at all,” he said.
“It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity.
“Even when we have seen the growth in the number of cyclists, we haven’t seen that diversity.
“There are a number of reasons for that,” he continued.
“One is that safety is paramount for getting different people from different walks of life cycling: older people, younger people, those from different backgrounds.”
Norman also defended Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s record on cycling infrastructure in the face of criticism from campaigners and London Asssembly Members who have been disappointed at what they see as slow progress in delivering schemes.
Some, such as the proposed extension of the East-West Cycle Superhighway onto the Westway, scrapped altogether.
“We have done more in the first year-and-a-half of this administration than Boris [Johnson] did in his first six years,” Norman insisted.
“It seems odd that that is the way people are looking at it because it is not actually true when you look at the figures.”
He insisted that London is on target to double the number of people cycling by 2026, but acknowledged that more action is necessary, saying, “Is it ambitious enough in the longer term? I think we need a higher level of change.
“The target that we have set out in the mayor’s transport strategy is over that 25 years we want to shift to 80 per cent of journeys to be walking, cycling or by public transport.
“That is a much more ambitious target and really is fundamentally rethinking the way that we move around our city.”
Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at the London Cycling Campaign, said that the key to getting a more diverse mix of people riding bikes in the city lay in building safe cycle routes.
He said: “The mayor just needs to crack on with making sure that network is there and is high-quality.
”Each new main road cycle track and safe-feeling quiet route brings loads more people to cycling as one of the most convenient, healthy and safe ways to get around.”
Norman added that dockless hire bikes, now a common sight in Outer London boroughs such as Ealing and also present in the Inner London locations such as Islington and Hackney, could also encourage more people to take to two wheels.
“There is an ecosystem of bike hire that is working well,” he said. “I personally think they are great.
“If we can get more people cycling, particularly in some of the outer London boroughs where we don’t have some of the resources to grow the Santander scheme, that is fantastic.
“But it has to be done in a way that works for all Londoners, so having those cluttering up the pavements is really not what we want,” he added.
“If that is done in a responsible way with good numbers then I think that is a very positive thing.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.