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Morning Commute: London on bike

Marketplace Staff Jan 15, 2008

Morning Commute: London on bike

Marketplace Staff Jan 15, 2008


Scott Jagow: Time once again for My Morning Commute.

Today, we’re going overseas — to London, a city with great public transportation. When Geoff Brumfiel moved there last year, he was excited to use it — then he found out how much it cost.

Geoff Brumfiel: Everything in London is expensive, and that includes public transit. Depending on where you’re going, a one-way fare can easily cost more than three pounds. These days, that’s over $6 U.S.

To save money, I recently bought a bike.

Maybe you’ve got some quaint idea about biking through cobblestoned streets. Well, “cycling,” as they call here, is a lot more like a giant game of dodge ball. You’ve got pedestrians, cars and motorcycles coming at you from every angle. Double-decker buses seem charming, until you’re wedged between two of them.

But despite the daredevil feel, every day about half a million journeys are made by bike in London. That’s up 83 percent from 2000. And that, as it turns out, is exactly what city planners need to happen.

Peter McBride: It’s boom time in London.

Peter McBride heads the cycling and walking division of the city’s public transit authority:

McBride: There’s a lot more investment flooding in, there’re more jobs being created, there’re more people coming here to live. Now that creates enormous pressure.

London’s streets are swamped, and the tube is packed. Planners need to come up with new ways for getting people around town. The city will spend 36 million pounds this year improving bike routes, providing training, and promoting cycling to the public.

It makes a lot of sense, says Carl Pittam. He’s London director for Sustrans, which promotes sustainable transportation.

Carl Pittam: It has all the benefits for the environment, for people’s health, and it relieves congestion not only on the roads, but on public transport as well. Particularly at peak times.

But what about the perception it’s dangerous? Well, McBride says it’s actually pretty safe.

McBride: It’s a bit like swimming: You can stand at the side of the pool and think, “I don’t fancy that.” But when you’re in, it’s very different. And it’s actually not as bad as you think.

Maybe not quite as bad. And the adrenaline rush has its own rewards. By the time I get to work, I don’t really need to buy a coffee.

From the streets of London, I’m Geoff Brumfiel for Marketplace.

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