Cycling in London in 2026

Following the release of Boris Johnson’s plans for the future of cycling in London, Jack Rich takes a bike ride through London in 2026…

Leaving the house in the morning, I throw on my coat and scarf and slurp the last of my coffee. Out on the road, my bike computer tells me I’ve allowed myself an hour to cycle the six mile trip to the office. This is more than enough time – but my overestimate is deliberate. Because it’s 2026, and London has been transformed.

Casually riding in jeans and shoes

Riding along at a leisurely pace, I’m wearing jeans and casual shoes – and so is everyone around me. There’s a girl wearing a beautiful long blue coat in front of me on an old Dutch bike and behind me there’s a mom cycling alongside her child heading to school.

copenhagen-cyclists

I’m riding past Canary Wharf on what used to be the worst part of my journey, but it’s improved no-end: whereas I used to have to swerve to avoid clattering into an opening car door, or a bus pulling into a stop, I’m cycling along a segregated path with an island between bikes and cars. It actually goes all the way to Victoria (they call it Crossrail for bikes) and it’s helped make cycling in London an absolute pleasure. Other cyclists, also riding casually, join from adjoining cycling paths.

I used to dread the next part of my journey – a junction notorious as being a hotspot for accidents involving cyclists. I used to have to get prepared to cycle as fast as possible and “keep my wits about me” as our Mayor used to say. He’s the Prime Minister now.

Phased traffic lights, and clear cyclist-only stopping areas, as well as mirrors for lorry drivers have helped make the junction as safe as possible. I’m quickly on my way again.

More people on two wheels

Approaching the office and I’m overtaken by a man on an electric bike. It seems lazy to me, but I’ve noticed they’ve become increasingly popular and it’s just nice to see more people on two wheels.

At work there’s an incredible amount of bikes in the office. I remember when there used to be just a handful of us. Dare I say it, people used to see us as almost “weird” for cycling to work. Now the number of bikes has tripled. The office certainly feels a lot more energetic in the mornings.

After a day at work again I cycle home again – cycling through a busy, but safe and friendly local neighbourhood before reaching my home. There are plenty of bikes about – adults and kids alike, all since my borough was designated a ‘mini-Holland’.

I used to cycle in lycra, with protective eyewear, cycling shoes and a commuter rucksack – but now I only wear that for long rides. Cycling has become more and more popular, but also more and more accessible: when I moved to London I dreaded getting on my bike. Now? I relish it.

***

I’m sure some will say the above is optimistic, idealistic and unrealistic. Perhaps it is. But there have been many articles discussing the realities of Boris Johnson’s Vision for Cycling, but he should be applauded, somewhat at least, for at least having the vision. Let’s just imagine his plan comes off in its entirety: Cycling will be so much fun. I love spending time on my bike now, and that’s with the risks and the politics. I can’t wait to see how cycling in London improves in ten years’ time.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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20 Responses to Cycling in London in 2026

  1. sm 15/03/2013 at 8:51 am #

    Great idea, can I play too?

    London 2026. The two decade long global recession continues to bite and I’m forced to cycle to work on my rims once again. Still, at least it means I won’t puncture on the once new bike lanes that are full of glass. I still wear lycra because lyrca is more comfortable than cotton no matter what the cool kids living in Leytonstone tell me. Only problem is, I’ve had the clothes so long the lycra has become see-through. You should hear the wolf whistles from the cabbies in those huge black vans they now drive.

    Electric bikes whir all around me. We call them the silent killers. There they go, through another red light. Even with the phased cyclist lights we still get the “jumpers” who help split the roads into two tribes. I arrive in Zone One, or The Land of the Rich, as we now know it. It’s mostly bankers, the privately educated middle classes from middle England along with the many wealthy Russians and Sheikhs. They don’t cycle, or drive, or walk. They ride the backs of employees like me, moving from coffee bar to coffee bar, even though they are all part of the same chain. I’m pulled over at the side of the road and checked for disease by the London Cycling Police before I hand over my lunch money to pay the cycling congestion and upkeep toll.

    Pedestrians wearing Google Goggles continually step out in front of me. I really do wish those glasses of theirs were preloaded with motion sensors rather than that silly Angry Commuters game they all seem to be playing. I get to work and spend twenty minutes locking up my bike to protect it from the organised gangs keen to sell my frame as wall art, the latest craze in trendy Walthamstow apparently. I sigh and remember the golden days of 2012 and the beginning of the cycling revolution when I really didn’t have anything to complain about.

    • Andreas 16/03/2013 at 12:46 am #

      :) Excellent! Like the mention of the Google glasses.

  2. DaveM 15/03/2013 at 9:33 am #

    As if that’s going to happen. Why not just choose your routes more carefully?

  3. Richard 15/03/2013 at 9:48 am #

    This was all going so swimmingly until the line “he’s the Prime Minister now” … the chances of Boris becoming Prime Minister are slightly smaller than my chances of winning the Tour de France …

    • Andreas 16/03/2013 at 12:47 am #

      He’s always denied he would ever apply but I wouldn’t be surprised if people voted for him because: “He’s so funny!”

  4. Von Cheam 15/03/2013 at 10:27 am #

    It’s Anno 18 A.B., or in the old-style calendar still in the process of being phased-out in the capital’s dozen schools; 2026. I strap on my 100-litre pack, containing enough supplies for a day ‘on the lanes’, slip into my clipless clogs and buckle up my stabproof kevlar-reinforced soft-shell. Posters of the former mayor adorn every street corner. He’s our Lord Chief Dura-Ace of the Realm and Chain Guard to the People, now.

    I cycle past the enormous, picturesque windmills that have been built on the razed sites of former petrol stations. They’re all oriented towards London City Hall, of course, to best take advantage of the frequent jets of hot air. I drop down through a few gears on my Alfine 40 to better accelerate around the other cyclists headed out, as I am, in search of the few last drops of GT85 we can eke out of this desolate environment.

    Meanwhile at Actually Brand New Scotland Yard, Sylvester Stallone is brought out of CryoPrison and defrosted in order to help Sandra Bullock catch escaped bike thief Wesley Snipes; modern bike-locking techniques proving all but ineffectual against Wes’ ancient, ruthless put-in-a-biro-and-jiggle-it methods.

    After passing mini-Rio (Stockwell) and Tooting Bec (maxi-Lichtenstein) and mini-Atlantis (those little islands in Clapham Common’s ponds), I reach the checkpoint on the A24 – now just one big cycle lane, made entirely from velodrome-boards and banked in the corners – where guards make sure I have my mayor’s Vision for Cycling, which is essentially one of those blacked-out lids that Alec Guinness made Luke wear when training against the remote on the Millennium Falcon, only made by Bern.

    As I clear the checkpoint, I think back to when I was young and trendy and rode around with Apple devices strapped to my handlebars. The pinnacle of our civilisation. (‘Pinnacle’ in the archaic sense, of course, whose usage declined more and more with every new design from Evans Cycles.) Back then I dreaded having to ride my bike. Now, I’m too high on Dissociative Coffee™ – a blend of finely-ground coffee beans and Ketamine, insufflated nasally – to care.

    • Andreas 15/03/2013 at 5:49 pm #

      Love this comment!

  5. Chris 15/03/2013 at 4:01 pm #

    That’s my fear for the future….

    Allowing an hour to negotiate 6 miles of slow-moving women in long coats on heavy Dutch tank-bikes (why do they make them so heavy???) would mean my current 15 mile each way commute being consigned to the history books.

    I don’t want to ride along slowly in jeans and casual shoes.

    • Tim 15/03/2013 at 6:32 pm #

      Chris, they make them so heavy because they’re meant to be reliable and indestructible. When your bike is just a convenient way of getting around, you don’t want to faff with it every weekend.

      Your 15 mile commute would still be entirely possible in the ‘new’ London, but you’d have more options for how to do it – you might not want to ride in jeans and casual shoes, but that demographic is precisely the target of this set of measures – cycling needs to become available to everyone, wearing whatever they want.

  6. goonz 15/03/2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Hell no will be cycling in 2026! I’m going to be whizzing about the skies in my flying car!

  7. Floydee 15/03/2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Interesting article but its a personal opinion. It could be a reality but then again,,,

    The main thing that would need to change in London, is our approach to cycling and commuting in the city. There’s a (strong) section of cyclists today that are obsessed with speed and racing against themselves.

    Having to “put up” with non lycra cyclist ambling along, sharing the same lanes and road space would be a lot to ask of the strava mobs and ninjas, methinks.

    The cycling culture in London would need to change. But then again thats my opinion.

    • Chris 15/03/2013 at 8:17 pm #

      I don’t know what route you’re on, but I don’t see much in the way of racing on CS7.

      Certainly I will ride as quickly as I can, but then I have to. Between 18 stone of me and 81 sets of traffic lights, even riding as hard as I can, I do well to average 14mph into central London. That’s a gentle pootling pace on country lanes, but it’s 20mph or more wherever possible on CS7 to keep up the average.

      I’m not obsessed with racing myself or anyone else. I’m just obsessed with not spending money on the train to get to work, and hopefully getting a bit fitter and lighter along the way! If ( and I accept it may only be an if) I’m going to get held up by slow moving bikes on segregated bike routes then the issue isn’t that my Strava segment gets ruined, it’s that my journey ceases to be viable. Some of us ride as fast as we can for a valid reason!

    • Phil Russell 16/03/2013 at 2:11 pm #

      FLOYDEE…….we’re no more “obsessed with speed” than the slow sit-up-and-beg riders are “obsessed with slow”. We’re all just doing—and wearing—what we want, as long as it’s safe and legal, surely…..
      P.R.

  8. Matt 16/03/2013 at 10:26 am #

    I’d find it too hard to get rid of my lycra and speed machine….

  9. Amy 16/03/2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Great article jack! Can’t wait for boris to be pm! Ps thank god you’re finally out of the Lycra…

  10. Goodwheel 17/03/2013 at 12:40 am #

    Formula One racing claimed 57 driver deaths from 1961 through 1973 when safety features were not keeping up with the rapid developments in the speed of cars to well over 150mph.

    Safety was an afterthought and the possibility of death was an accepted risk associated with the sport. The racetracks “safety walls” were not able to deal with the impact of speeding cars. Track staff were also not equipped to deal with accidents – often lacking basic safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire suits to assist when crashes occurred and worst of all, the public accepted all this as quite normal.

    Hopefully, the day will soon come when we will look back to 2013 and wonder how it was then expected for cyclists to put ‘man up’ and expose themselves to such risk just to get onto their bikes.

  11. Joseph Gallimore 17/03/2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Very funny indeed. It seems like an awful lot of money to me but I am not a proper Lycra wearer. I could certainly buy a lot of Lycra for £913 million though.

  12. Matthew Kuehlhorn 22/03/2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Great vision. Thanks for the ride.

  13. Sabine 04/04/2013 at 10:09 am #

    It’s 2026 – people no longer commute, they work from home, so cycling has become the new Gym. As council tax couldn’t rise any higher, the London Boroughs have started to charge for use of their cycle lanes. Cycling is now a sport for the rich and everyone else walks…

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