Why the bike needs to be at the top of the pecking order

By - Friday 5th April, 2013

Local reporter, photographer, Frohican, and biking enthusiast Wes Baker explains why two wheels are better than four (or more!)


Shadow of a cyclist and bicycle in Wandle ponds

When I cycle into central London on a weekday I notice something once I hit Brixton that I don’t in Croydon. What I notice is I’m travelling with other cyclists almost like a school of fish instead of a lone whale shark. I understand that the destination I am heading for – Cycle Town – is quite ambitious for some, and that the mass transit is good enough to warrant not going under your own steam. I can only estimate 1% of our 350k residents are cycling. When I talk to others the big factor that seems to put many off is the perception and actual safety of cycling on London’s streets.

The truth is there are many journeys that could take place within the borough. The town centre is easily reachable on bike from Thornton Heath, West Croydon, Waddon, South Croydon, Addiscombe, and East Croydon. The reality is that I see queues of cars in traffic as I zip by. Some of these journeys no doubt will definitely require a car but I can’t believe they all do.

The Mayor has announced nearly £1bn in investment for what has been dubbed the cycle cross rail. This would see West and East London connected in the same way as the crossrail being dug under the city. When you look at this scheme, Barclay’s cycle hire, and all the cycle superhighways, we seem to be overlooked time and time again despite Boris visiting our town many times and telling us how much he likes it here.

You might dislike cyclists due to those that flout the rules of the road and pavement but the truth is that motorists and pedestrians are guilty of such crimes on a daily basis. These people don’t represent the behaviour of all those on two wheels. When you think about it, more people cycling means there’s more capacity on the roads for those that really have to drive, more capacity on the buses and trams, and less COd2 being emitted into the air.

With Westfield on the cards and Centrale looking to redevelop to attract more people through its door, can our road network really cope with the extra four wheel capacity? Only three suburban boroughs will get a portion of funding to have Dutch-style cycle networks and we can campaign to get be one of them. We managed to get the funding for the Portas pilot scheme, funding to redevelop Wandle Park, and haven’t let the riots drag us down. If you think this is a worthy cause please contact your local MP.



Street photographer, 1st of the Frohicans and Croydon's No.1 fan according to my parents. I graduated in Transport Design at Coventry University summer 2012 and made my way back to the town I love to continue working on my Croydon facebook page. I eventually met some of the other local creatives with the same enthusiasm and soon knew it was my mission to engage with and hopefully help to get the word out about the creative potential and future of Croydon.

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  • angus_fx

    Great article Wes!

    • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Wesley-Jordan-Anthony-Baker/690910500 Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

      Thanks Angus are you into cycling?

      • angus_fx

        Very much so! I volunteer with Croydon Cyclists, we’re campaigning to make Croydon a much more civilised place to ride a bike. You can get in touch with the group on twitter or facebook (@CroydonCyclists) or come to one of our monthly meet ups, they’re usually the second Monday of the month (i.e. this coming week), 7.45pm in the Spread Eagle pub on Katharine Street.

        • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Wesley-Jordan-Anthony-Baker/690910500 Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

          Thanks for the invite might head there after work and get some pics in beforehand.

  • http://twitter.com/greencroydon Andrew Dickinson

    Wes, i seem to recall reading somewhere recently that we are applying for the funding to have the cycle routes that you allude to. Do you think it’s possible to start a campaign using all the social media at our disposal and collect signatures electonically? I’m sure the IT wizards here at the Citizen could help? Worryingly, pg 10 of this weeks Advertiser runs a story that that the worst behaved drivers in the country come from Croydon. So perhaps not encouraging Croydonians to cycle will keep death off the roads?

    • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Wesley-Jordan-Anthony-Baker/690910500 Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

      Hi Andrew wasn’t aware of this as I now we have or got funding to have the cycle route connecting the parks from west to east. I agree social media could really connect people and give a bigger voice to a campaign. Google docs is actually quite good for this sort of thing as you can do questionnaires for free. Will see if I can work something out tonight,

      Bad driving doesn’t help I guess its like jumping into a shark infested ocean opposed to staying on the nice safe ship. Generally I’ve found drivers to be ok here. The one thing that I do find sometimes is indicating right to change lane and drivers still bearing down on you fast as if your sticking your arm out for the fun off it.It can make you hesitant.

      The other thing I didn’t include is the need for a bicycle hub, We have no town centre cycle shop, I guess the closest is Cycle king but somewhere where you can go and have a shower and freshen up before work say if you had travelled in from Coulsdon. I envisage it being a cafe as well so it becomes a social space as well and garners a community of cyclists having a place to come together. Finsbury park has one and it also has storage for bicycles thats gated and staffed with cctv, theres a mechanic and I think a cafe though you have to be a member but I guess if you drove you’d pay more a month than any cycle hub membership.

    • angus_fx

      There are various pots of money being made available either at borough level, or at London-wide level which individual boroughs then have to lobby for. I hear that Croydon’s two main parties have agreed to set aside their differences and lobby for one of the big pots coming from the London Assembly.

      Money’s great, and necessary, but it still needs to be spent wisely & by an administration that’s actually prepared to put bikes first, and where necessary slow down other traffic with 20mph limits, traffic calming, lane narrowing and suchlike. This isn’t one-size-fits-all anti-car dogma, just practical engineering measures in the places where they’re needed. Unfortunately the current administration is implacably opposed to any 20mph zones, traffic calming or rat run removal.

      So what I’m saying in a roundabout way is, even if they got £100m, it could still end up being p’ed up the wall on consultations and useless badly designed cycle infrastructure. Both the money and the political will has to be there.

      Croydon Cyclists are beginning to organise exactly the kind of social media & letter writing campaigns you allude to. Get involved & help out, the more the merrier! See my other post below for details on the monthly meet up – next one is Monday evening.

      @Wes – love the idea of a commuter cycle hub cafe. We have a sports cycling cafe near where I live in Crystal Palace which is always packed on weekends, but it’s not really in the ideal place for commuters (not that many office workers in Palace & it’s a brave cyclist who can face riding UP that hill first thing in the a.m.).