Yesterday I needed to drown my sorrows (work troubles) with a little retail therapy on Oxford street. While there I heard honks and cheers, bells and music. Cyclists were making their way down the street, blocking traffic and I realised it was Critical Mass.
Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world. It was a Monday, but nevertheless they rode their bikes to protest against cars and biker vulnerability. London is known for biker deaths on it's street, they don't really have bike lanes as we do in San Fran. Around the city phantom white bikes are left where there have been biker deaths.
It was ironic because I'd just read a piece in Management Today (I know I am not a manager, but it's a good magazine) with a mention about Paris being a bike friendly city, take a look:
The MT Diary
A weekend in Paris, like nostalgia, is not what it used to be. But is it worse than a weekend in London, with every other street dug up and gloomy bankers at the bar crying into their champagne about the 50% tax rate? Oh yes. Let me count the ways.
First, there's the price. One of the few profitable business lines left for the banks is foreign exchange, so even though our plucky pound has picked up a little, you're lucky to get more than EUR1.05 a throw, which makes eating out in Paris a costly hobby. And the food is now, as a rule, a cut below London's. The breadth and variety of food here has generally passed Parisians by, and they've never been able to cook a vegetable anyway. The only green veg they live on are laurels.
The range of wine, too, is not a patch on what you find here. They haven't noticed Australian, South African or American wine, let alone New Zealand's, whose sauvignon blancs regularly knock their Loire equivalents into a cocked beret in international competition. And let's not forget the legendary charm of the French waiter.
Between meals, there's no contest. Music in London is streets ahead, and theatre too. Hard to tell when it comes to art, as you have to queue for ages to get into a gallery. The Musee d'Orsay and the Pompidou will have to await another trip, when swine flu has kept 80% of tourists at home. Football? Do me a favour. The cup final, on the weekend we were there, was between Rennes and Guingamp (no, I've no idea, either).
But there is one trump card - the Velib. In a tasteful livery of postmodern grey, rental bikes are on every corner, accessed through a system that seems near foolproof. It's cheap, at just EUR1 an hour, and the bikes themselves are better than functional. After dinner, a 15-minute ride, past lines of empty taxis, is juste le billet, and can even help to digest the stodgy food. It's shameful that our two great London mayors have spent the past six years fiddling about with bendy buses and traffic lights, rather than on something that really reduces congestion and emissions.
Mayor Bloomberg offers no rental bikes in New York. It's a brave person who ventures onto two wheels in Manhattan, where the potholes can engulf a yellow cab, but the business mood today seems better than in London, especially with the dreaded banking stress tests now done. Some think we are approaching the foothills of the sunlit uplands, where milk, honey and in-the-money options flow.
That's not my view, I have to say. I am suspicious of false dawns in which dead cats peak too soon. But then I am a congenital pessimist, which I suppose is why I wasted my prime on audit and regulation. Those essentially unconstructive occupations appeal to my Cassandrian tendencies. A more rational case is that the impact of unemployment on confidence and consumer spending has barely been felt so far, so a second downward leg to the market is quite possible. We'll see, but I have to admit that a good amount of smart money is now betting the other way.
See the full article at:
My point, you ask? Besides drawing your attention to Howard Davies and his witty take on the world and its financial troubles, we need more bikes out there, especially now! Look at the car industry and the effect on economic insecurity has on it. If GM can fail, as it did this week, we need to change the system and more importantly we also need to change our future urban planning processes and our thoughts on four wheels.