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Petrol panic? Here’s what to do instead

Shortages and panic buying of petrol are currently gripping the media and London’s drivers. How do we avoid such a chaotic future?

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Dodge the queue

We’ve seen the queues, heard the honks and dodged the traffic jams (hopefully). For car-dependent Londoners, it’s chaos out there and now with talk of bringing in the Army to help manage the fuel shortage, it doesn’t take an expert to see that our transport system is deeply flawed.

This crisis reveals an increasingly fragile system and the extent to which we are reliant on fossil fuels to keep London moving even when there are easily accessible alternatives. Low-traffic neighbourhoods and cycle tracks can’t continue to be the scapegoat for chaos on our roads when it’s so clearly our over-reliance on cars causing the problems.

Studies have shown that two thirds of car trips in London are under 5km and – in terms of distance – could easily be cycled or walked instead. TfL suggests a majority of motorised journeys could be done by other modes. LCC is of course working to ensure better streets that will make cycling, walking and public transport the default mode of getting around so that when (not if) another fuel shortage hits, Londoners get pedaling instead of panic buying fuel.

This is why we’re calling for Climate Safe Streets – local authorities need to up their game, especially in the rapid delivery of a high-quality cycle network that’s safe and attractive for all ages. See more about our asks here or below (and help us campaign for them in the run up to the May 2022 elections). That’s also why we are working to make sure Londoners feel confident pedaling instead of getting stuck queuing.

Getting cycling

In areas where cycling infrastructure has been improved, more people are already taking up cycling. Even where we don’t yet have loads of safe cycle routes, many Londoners already do cycle. So if you, friends or family would like to skip the petrol station queues and save your fuel for trips where only a car will do, here are some tips on how to start cycling in London:

Start small

As we replace some of the home office with the office office, don’t feel you need to start cycling a long daily commute straight away. Forgot to buy something from the shops? Cycle to retrieve that pesky cumin. Same goes for appointments around the corner, trips to the train station or the park down the road. Cycling shorter distances in familiar surroundings will help build confidence for longer trips. Your body, brain and bank balance will thank you! We have a lot more advice on getting cycling here.

Cycle training

If you’re new to cycling or need a confidence boost, there are training courses across London, in many boroughs free. Find out what’s available in your borough.

Cycle Buddies

If you’d like an experienced rider to help you navigate a new route or you simply want someone to help you find your pedaling feet, LCC’s Cycle Buddies scheme, running in many boroughs, puts you in touch with a cyclist in your area. You can then arrange to go on rides together and hey, maybe you’ll even make a new friend? Click here to get connected with a buddy in your area.

LCC group rides

Excuse us for stating the obvious but group rides are such fun! Like a herd of migrating animals, you get to move across the city in search of new views and maybe even drink from a local watering hole? (Responsibly of course.) Rides are happening all the time so check in with your local group to see when the next one is happening in your area. There are also women-only rides on offer if you prefer with groups like Breeze, Cycle Sisters and JoyRiders.

LCC membership

If you’d like to play a part in creating a better environment for cycling in London, think about becoming an LCC member. Aside from helping our campaigning work to make cycling better in your borough, you can enjoy some great perks such as cycling liability insurance, free cycling legal advice and discounts at bike shops around London. We’re also running a promotion where you can get a free set of CatEye lights when you sign up.

Action on cycling = action on climate

The personal benefits to be gained from cycling cannot be overstated, and the same goes for the environmental ones too. The weight of global carbon emissions shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of consumers; corporates and governments have a much bigger role to play and we need to keep the pressure on them.

That said, our personal choices do have an impact as is shown by research conducted by the PASTA project (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches). According to a recent Europe-wide study, people who cycled on a daily basis had 84% lower carbon emissions from all their daily travel than those who didn’t. And no, electric cars aren’t the (only) answer: while they’re definitely better than using a conventional car, an electric car still generates ten times as much carbon per trip than a bike, taking the whole life cycle of each vehicle into account. Also, traffic jams, road danger, inactivity, even pollution don’t disappear when cars go electric.

Motor vehicles are sometimes unavoidable. Many keyworkers depend on motor vehicles to keep society going, and construction, freight, all sorts of sectors will need to make journeys in motor vehicles right now. So let’s keep that in mind before hindering their access to limited fuel supplies in a city with rising transport emissions.

We want every journey that can be done without an engine to be done that way, and we need every politician to work harder on climate-changing emissions and avoiding scenes like this. That’s why we’re asking them all to take rapid action on transport emissions reduction, car use reduction and increasing cycling with our Climate Safe Streets campaign (read more on it here).

We all need to ditch the car as often as we can, this crisis is a salient reminder of that, but we also need all politicians to help enable more people to shift away from cars and our society from reliance on oil. That’s why our #ClimateSafeStreets campaign asked for London’s Mayor to commit to a massive expansion of the cycle network, for smart mobility hubs throughout London and for simpler, fairer “smart road-user charging” to ensure only those journeys that must be done by car are.

Look out also for our local borough election #ClimateSafeStreets campaign also, launching soon in your borough.

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