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London Mayoral elections

Exactly three years ago, I unveiled my vision to make cycling in London safer, more popular and more normal. My single biggest regret as Mayor is that I did not do it sooner. Our original painted lanes were revolutionary at the time. But knowing what I do now, we would have blasted ahead with our new segregated cycle lanes from the beginning.

This is from Boris Johnson, who, in 2011, famously said that “If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable.”

The quote at the top is from HUMAN STREETS: THE MAYOR’S VISION FOR CYCLING THREE YEARS ON, published just before the weekend.  I think it’s worth a read by everyone with an interest in the upcoming London Mayoral & Assembly Elections.  Boris says a number of interesting things like this:

“getting people out of cars is in fact the only way to keep London moving for essential business and commercial vehicles. Doing nothing with the roads would not return us to some never-existent ‘50s Elysium of free-flowing traffic. Doing nothing would mean that congestion gets worse than it is now.

The reason this is interesting is not because this is a radical or innovative idea, it’s interesting because this is the same man that came into City Hall talking about smoothing traffic flow, rephasing traffic lights and describing the Low Emissions Zone as ‘the most punitive, draconian fining regime in the whole of Europe’.

I don’t like the man, I dislike the bluster, and the way the way that he has talked to London Assembly Members, particularly the female members, when they have tried to hold him to account, I dislike the whole concept of a celebrity politician, which is what he is, I dislike the way that he seems to have used the Mayoralty as stepping stone to greater things, and all of the rest of the reasons that there are to dislike Boris – but I give him massive credit for changing his mind completely, and starting work on a proper network of cycle lanes.

Maybe someone can get Zac to read it, and give his comments?

 

Great to hear all the candidates present Sîan Berry (Green), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Sadiq Khan (Labour), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat) Peter Whittle (UKIP) say that they thought that cycling was a good thing.

Unimpressed by Peter Whittle (United Kingdom Independence Party), who not only made no specific commitments of any kind, other than saying that cycling was good, but went on to talk about arrogant cyclists mounting the pavements etc.  Sorry mate, you didn’t hear George Osborne say at any point whatsoever that his multi-billion pound road-building programme was conditional on motorists starting to observe the speed limits and keeping off their mobile phones whilst driving.  Increasing the number of people cycling is either a good thing or it isn’t.  If it is, the fact that a small minority of people do stupid things whilst on bikes is a matter for law-enforcement, in exactly the same way as it is a matter for the police that one in ten drivers in London do not possess valid insurance, rather than a reason to stop filling in potholes.  3/10

Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) asserted that cycling would grow by 400%, but totally failed to say how would he would go about enabling that.  He didn’t say that he would continue Boris’ great work, but he didn’t say he wouldn’t either.  He didn’t give the impression that he realised that cycling rates flat-lined during Boris’ first term, probably because most people found the blue paint and entreaties to ‘keep you wits about you’ unenticing, and stayed on the bus, train or in their cars.  Cycling rates only started to increase again after Boris started building segregated bike lanes, which suggests that people will only cycle if they feel safe, and that they only feel safe if segregated bike lanes, and allied measures to reduce traffic, are provided, and this will require an unequivocal spending commitment, not weasel words.  However, he did agree that reducing the number of HGVs on the road was important, and even suggested a way (micro-consolidation) to achieve it. 5/10

Sadiq Khan (Labour) pledged to increase spending on cycling, but then went on to say that that the implementation had been ‘a disaster’ and had caused ‘chaos’, which was a cheap & unnecessary shot at Boris – has he not been paying attention?  Given that he was Minister in charge of Crossrail One, as he was careful to point out at least 3 times during the show, surely he knows better than anyone that major urban infrastructure projects cause disruption, sometimes lasting years?  A major part of Soho, including a well-loved venue landmark, the Astoria Theatre, was turned into a great big hole in the ground, and St Giles’ Circus is still a major eye-sore, so a little bit of road re-allocation, which most Londoners barely noticed, is really no big deal.  On the other hand, he also talked about restricting or banning HGVs, so I give him extra credit for that. 8/10

Sîan Berry (Green Party) said all the right things, ticked all the right boxes, and emphasised how important it is that London’s nascent cycling revolution is extended to the suburbs.  Full marks. 10/10

Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrats) similarly said all the right things, and went further, making a specific commitment to spend 3% of TfL’s budget on cycling, which is what we all want to hear – concrete spending commitments, whether it’s £10 per year per head of population – vague promises often end up amounting to little more than painting some not-so-pretty pictures of bicycles in places where no-one can see them.  I also give her extra credit for endorsing the Sustrans Brunel Bridge, which makes her score 11/10.

Couple of interesting things that came out of the cycling segment of the debate – the Labour, Lib-Dem & Green candidates championing a policy (segregated bike lanes) that was initiated by a Tory mayor, with the Tory candidate equivocating, and the importance that all 4, including Zac Goldsmith, attached to traffic reduction & more generally to air quality.  Someone, I can’t remember who (apols), at the Londoners On Bikes meeting yesterday said that they thought that the big issue this time was going to be air-quality.

You can see the cycling bit of the debate here.