Just back from a weekend in Munich, escaping from the grey, the rain and the Blair/Brown folderol to help a friend, about to take up the reins as president of the European patent office, move into her new apartment. Oh, the joys of a well organized German city. Standard issue recycling bins for every sort of waste and regular collections of same; cellar space for each apartment with room for all manner of cumbersome objects not needed on a daily basis; a shared drying room for wet clothes or snowy boots. And the bike lanes! I have bicycled around London for years but still feel that every time I do it may well be my last, what with the bendy buses, ferocious pedestrians and, worst of all, insanely belligerent fellow cyclists. In Munich no street is without a bike lane and, crucially, the system is allied to the pavements rather than the roads, with a traffic light network all to itself. Often, the bike lane is separated from road traffic by a line of trees (the heady smell of lime blossom is intoxicating at this time of year) so it really is as safe as it possibly can be. And it makes cycling a thing of joy and convenience rather than knee-trembling terror. Why oh why can't we have something similar here?