Friday, 10 June 2011

The picture that shows why the Tories don't understand London's cycling and road transport issues


New Amsterdam: This shows just half of the cycle parking provided at one very well-known company in the Square Mile. This week. On a rainy day


Earlier this week London's Conservative Assembly Members walked out on a motion by Jenny Jones, Green Party AM, to retain an existing 20mph on Blackfriars Bridge. The purpose of her motion was to make the bridge and its junctions safer for pedestrians and cyclists, cyclists now being the largest single group of vehicles using the bridge at rush hour.

The motion was important to those of us who think safety on the roads should be just as important whether you're in a car or on a bicycle or a pedestrian. There was some excellent analysis of the walk-out on londonist.com:

"If the Conservative members share the apparent majority opinion of the Assembly that the current road agenda puts congestion unduly ahead of safety – which certainly some have said they do (notably Andrew Boff, who has been supportive of a 20mph limit in the past), this is a very odd way of showing it"

The wider issue is this. The picture above is not Amsterdam or Berlin or Copenhagen. This is the City of London. On a Friday. It's raining outside. And despite that, there are hundreds and hundreds of cycles in this office of a very large, very well-known City institution (the picture shows only half the facilities for cycle parking. There are more than twice as many cycles as you can see here)

When I have met Conservative opinion leaders and politicians and when I have sat down banging my head on the table (virtually) opposite the many conserative (smaller c) councillors in the City of London, they have tended to type-cast cyclists as left-wingers, not part of their core constituency, not 'people like us'.

What I think neither the Conservatives in the London Assembly nor most of the Members (councillors) in the City of London realise is that their transport agenda is alienating a sizeable slice of people you might consider to be the Tories's core constituents: People who work in the Square Mile, who might live in the more prosperous parts of London and might own an SUV or two. These are the same people who book black cabs to get home after a gruelling deal into the middle of the night.

So, by walking out of the Assembly this week, whatever the political legitimacy of their issues, I think the Conservatives scored an enormous own-goal by striking at all Londoners.

I'm also making this point becuse after my posts this week, a number of people have insinuated I might be in the pay of a particular political party. In no way am I in the pay of, or frankly interested in, any of the political parties. I'm also not trying to turn cycling into a rich person or poorer person agenda. My agenda is simple: the Mayor's transport advisors don't understand that Londoners of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds want a choice in how they get about on London's streets. And many of them want to cycle (58% according to TfL) but feel denied that choice by Transport for London. For the simple reason that Transport for London puts 'traffic congestion' as its number one priority, above all else, and doesn't stop for one minute to consider this:

A majority of car trips in London are under two miles. Give people the choice to cycle, make it more convenient and make it feel safer. You might kill two birds with one stone, the same way other cities have all across Europe, and make it safe to cycle and less congested to drive. TfL, it's time to switch off your blinkered obsession with traffic congestion. You've been trying the same strategy since 1982. It still won't work.