When I first heard of the new ‘cycle super highways’ that run into central London from the suburbs, my first reaction was to compare and contrast the achievements of our newt loving former mayor Ken Livingstone with those of the incumbent Boris Johnson.
In the red corner we have Ken. A bit foul-mouthed, a bit bossy. But he introduced the first major stand against the hegemony of the automobile by any major city in the world: The Congestion Charge. It needed sharp political instincts to bulldoze it through, a commitment of hundreds of millions of pounds in new technology and the willingness to upset large swathes of the electorate.
There was another world first in the Oyster card, a ground-breaking automated transport ticket with the potential to become an electronic currency holder.
In the blue corner we have Boris. And what is his big achievement to date? Well he got some paint and coloured long stretches of London’s roads an azurey sort of blue. Why blue? “For high levels of visibility, to provide a consistent look and feel, and to distinguish them from the green lanes of the London Cycling Network,” says Transport for London.
But then I realised that I had completely missed the point. The correct name for these cycle lanes is ‘Barclays Cycle Superhighways’. And no, they are not a revolution in transport. They are a revolution in branding. They are a marketing putsch, an extraordinary corporate coup d’etat staged by Barclays.
That may sound a little rich for what is just a cycle lane, but consider this. The hundreds of miles of proposed cycle super highways wont be painted in any old blue. They will be in near 100 per cent cyan. It’s a colour otherwise known as Barclays blue. In other words, large stretches of one of the world’s greatest cities will be swathed in corporate livery. Barclay’s corporate livery.
Barclay’s has branded the very ground beneath our feet, it has turned our streets into an advertisement, albeit one that measures 225 kilometres (the combined length of the 15 proposed cycle routes) by 1.5 metres (the width of the routes). It has turned the landscape into a brandscape.
The idea that the streets of London should be coloured Barclay blue may not to be everybody’s taste, but you have to admire their daring, their imagination and the scale of their ambition .Tags: Barclays, Barclays Cycle Superhighway, Boris Johnson, Brands, brandscape, Ken Livingstone, london