LAST week I went back up to London for the first time since a year last February.

With lockdowns and working from home, I haven’t needed to go. But as life begins to get back to (the new) normal, I found myself waiting for a delayed departure once more (never change, South West Trains).

Fifteen months in the country had left me full bumpkin-mode and I was nervous about going up. I decided I didn’t want to go on the underground if I could avoid it.

As such, I dusted down my fold up bike, which I took with me, to cycle across the city centre to my meeting.

When I lived in London the best part of 20 years ago, I used to cycle to work. It was a somewhat hair-raising experience.

I still have nightmares about my daily weaving across the four lanes of Vauxhall Cross. Later, when I moved to Salisbury and started commuting in, I kept a bike at Waterloo station and cycled each morning to Notting Hill – again with plenty of ‘shut your eyes and hope’ moments.

These days, cycling in London has changed. Rather than fighting for space with snarled up traffic, the city now is criss-crossed with numerous cycle super-highways.

Bollarded off, if sometimes counter-intuitively on the right side of the road, they were well signposted and had their own specific cycle traffic lights.

My meeting was in north London and I sped past Parliament, Buckingham Palace, across Hyde Park and over Marble Arch. It took about the same time as the Tube, and felt healthier all round.

Back here in Salisbury, if you’ll excuse the pun, the election of a new city and county council has seen that cyclical once in a decade debate about whether the city should have a bypass.

The new leader of the county council was interviewed last week promising one ‘in the long term’ – the long term, for those hoping to shave a few minutes off their car journey in the next decade, was famously described by Keynes as when ‘we are all dead’.

As I know from my own postbag whenever I write about transport, it’s an issue that divides opinion: that is shown by the make-up of the new city council, where the ruling Conservatives have just lost their majority.

For me, a bypass feels a twentieth century solution to the twenty-first century challenges we face.

If both local and national targets around carbon reductions are serious, then different and more creative answers to these questions need to be found.

As my experience in London last week shows, rebalancing the mix towards public transport, walking and, yes, cycling, offers an alternative way forwards.

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