The cycling revolution in London

The explosion in popularity of cycling has changed London’s streets forever. Keen cyclist Gavin Green talks about the joy of cycling in the capital, what the future holds and why Volvo Cars’ City Safety innovation is already helping to create safer journeys for drivers and cyclists alike.


Cycling is the fastest-growing form of transport in London. Since 2000, the number of journeys made by bicycle in London has increased by a factor of two and a half. Cycling is now the most popular form of road transport in the city at peak times.

London roads, so long synonymous with black cabs, red buses and traffic jams, are now equally famous for the crowds of cyclists that course through the city’s streets. The change is profound. Dedicated cycle routes have sprung up everywhere. Transport for London’s pay-as-you-go ‘Boris’ bikes are now a part of the street furniture, and have become an integral part of the public transport system. In fact, July 2018 was the most successful month for the project ever, with more than 1.2 million hire sessions in that time.

I started cycling in London 31 years ago, and I still enjoy it. Why? I like the exercise, certainly, and find cycling more enjoyable than running, and kinder to ageing joints. Plus, you go faster and get to own a nice piece of kit. It’s also a reliable way to get around London, freeing you from the world of delayed trains, packed tubes and gridlocked traffic that is the reality for many of London’s commuters and sightseers.

Regular rides outside the M25 allow me to explore the countryside at a leisurely pace. And whether you’re on Leith Hill, or in Ladbroke Grove, cycling is therapeutic. Most forms of transport are stressful. Cycling is relaxing. It’s mindful movement, Zen on a diamond-shaped frame. The nearest I get to meditation is when I ride. Cycling lets you think. Einstein supposedly thought of his theory of relativity while riding his bike.

Cycling has changed a lot since I started commuting to my office in Earl’s Court by bike. Back then I was the exception, the freak-on-a-frame. Now cycling is the norm for many. That’s great, because cycling is a sustainable, healthy form of mobility. It keeps you fit and creates no pollution. The explosion in popularity of cycling is something to be celebrated, but the huge increase in the number of bikes on our streets brings with it obvious issues around safety and road planning.

Cycling is no fad: it’s here to stay, so it must be part of a cohesive plan for mobility in the future. Vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians must be able to move harmoniously around city streets. That means the right planning, and thinking carefully about how we develop our roads, buildings and traffic flow. It means using technology cleverly to make journeys safer. Volvo Cars is at the forefront of this, and has been for a long time, with City Safety – a safety innovation that uses radar and camera technology, along with braking support, to help spot potential danger and avoid it.

As all vehicles gain more and more advanced safety features, so our roads will become safer for everyone, including cyclists. Increasing levels of autonomous driving capability will also make a difference. Vehicles that can drive themselves – even if only for some of the time – will help to create the efficient flow of traffic that our ever more populous cities need. In the future, perhaps, all urban driving will be done autonomously, as we summon our car (or indeed someone else’s) as necessary. Car parks could become obsolete and our streets could be reimagined as open spaces where automated delivery pods, cyclists and pedestrians exist in pollution-free harmony. That’s some way off, I suspect. For now, I’m happy that more people than ever are experiencing the joy of cycling, and that companies such as Volvo Cars have a vision of future mobility that puts people first, whether they’re in a car, on foot or, as I often am, on a bike.

City Safety – safer journeys for everyone

Protecting people has always been at the heart of what Volvo Cars does, and City Safety illustrates how this applies as much to people outside the car as inside it. This innovation, which is standard for every new Volvo car, uses radar and camera technology to identify other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals on the road ahead, day or night. It warns you if it detects an imminent collision and, if you don’t react in time, it can automatically apply the brakes to help avoid or mitigate a collision. This is something that provides extra peace of mind when driving on busy city streets, where it often feels like you need an extra two or three pairs of eyes to see everything that’s going on around you. In the latest Volvo models City Safety even includes Steering Support, which helps you to steer away from danger as effectively and safely as possible.

Cross Traffic Alert is another Volvo Cars innovation that helps to keep all road-users safe – whether on two or four wheels, or feet. It provides increased awareness of what’s directly behind you as you reverse out of a parking space, using radar technology to detect cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles behind you. Vehicles can be identified up to 30 metres to the left and right of the car’s rear, while cyclists and pedestrians are detectable at shorter distances.