Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Boris Johnson's cycle revolution. I don't see how a single London cyclist could vote Boris after watching his performance today.

UPDATE: A review of the cycling Tour du Danger yesterday. Why we're doing this and what it's about


The London Assembly questioned the Mayor, Boris Johnson about cycle safety earlier today. You can see some of the session on the clip above where Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones asks some very sensible and well-informed questions.

The London Cycling Campaign has responded extremely firmly to the Mayor. Its chief executive asking “Does the Mayor really not believe in redesigning bad junctions?...Is the answer that traffic speed is more important to the Mayor than the safety of vulnerable road users?"

I think that just about summarises the Mayor's attempts to wriggle out of some serious questions about road safety. Not shown on this clip but raised elsewhere in the session, Boris Johnson stated: "Elephant & Castle  fine. If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable. I want people to feel confident. The cycle superhighways are about building confidence."

There have been 89 cyclist casualties on the Elephant roundabout in the last two years. And the Mayor thinks everything's fine. Jenny Jones's put-down was very to the point: "The Mayor, as an experienced cyclist, wants roads that are safe for him to cycle around, I want roads that are safe for a twelve year old to cycle on."

At 2.47 minutes into this clip, the Mayor talks about how it 'grieves me to see the way that [Transport for London] is blamed' when there are cycling accidents. Hear that again? Yes, he grieves for Transport for London. Not for the dead cyclists but for his transport authority.

Other lowlights from the debate:

Boris Johnson - "I sometimes don't think physical streetworks are the answer...the answer is often to educate HGV drivers and to educate cyclists." Right. Try telling that to a 12 year-old cycling to school. Don't worry, just trust the HGV driver. Perhaps like this one, the man who drives an HGV, has defective eyesight, whose truck ran over and killed cyclist Eilidh Cairns two years ago and is now being questioned about hitting and killing a pedestrian last month. 

Mark of ibikelondon blog kept up a running commentary on the debate this morning and you can see some of the more irresponsible comments made by the Mayor on his twitter page here.

Gems like this:

Mark, quoting Boris: "'It is not possible to put in dedicated cycling infrastructure without disrupting the flow of traffic(!)' Has he been to Vauxhall?"

or - "BJ: The answer is not in physical interventions but in educating HGV drivers. < Where did he get this idea from?! We need both."

New York - normal bike lane
The fact is, road design does matter. There are insane road schemes all over London, crap junctions like Elephant that are terrifying to cycle through. Some of us can manage them. But most people look at them and think, no chance, I'm not cycling around that. So they don't. They drive, take the bus or walk.

Physical interventions are in place in every civilised city. Like this picture here of Third Avenue in New York - bike lane kept well away from motor vehicles.

There's plenty of space in London to get junctions and main roads right. They don't all have to look like this one in New York  but they do need designing to take cycling into account. At the moment, London's roads are designed for motor vehicles. Cycling and pedestrians are sort of shoe-horned in at the last minute. The whole farce at Blackfriars shows that in very clear detail.

But the Mayor of London has now denied that junction improvements are key to improving cycling safety. Or to increasing the number of people who cycle instead of drive.

Transport for London -
normal bike lane
I have to hand it to several Assembly Members who really do 'get' cycling. Caroline Pidgeon (LibDem), Val Shawcross (Labour), Andrew Boff (Conservative) and John Biggs (Labour) have all worked hard to campaign for safer cycling. They asked sensible, intelligent and useful questions today. Jenny Jones of the Green Party has been extremely clear and focussed on this topic to make cycling a major campaign issue.

You can see more of the debate on the BBC, whose transport correspondent Tom Edwards, has covered matters in an extremely measured way on tonight's news coverage.

After watching the Mayor today, he's lost my vote completely. Someone else said it better than me. Writing on her Rosamundi blog: "Let me remind you that this is supposed to be a “safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city [which] could be your best and quickest way to get to work...Cycle Superhighway 2 is desperately, appallingly dangerous and pretending not to be."

Boris Johnson is exactly the same. He's pretending that his cycling revolution is safe, fast and more direct. But I think he's forgotten the safety bit and he is pretending that some lessons for HGV drivers is all it takes. It doesn't. It takes proper design of London's streets to put cycling into our streets, not just feed a few leftovers to the people on bikes.

I can't bring myself to vote for Boris after watching this and I don't see how a single London cyclist could vote Boris after watching his performance today.


If you want to get involved:

I'd urge you to join us for our Junction Flashride to protest for safe junctions for pedestrians and cyclists. All around London. Things have got to start to change. 

This Saturday. Departing at 10.30 from 
St Mark's Church, The Oval, Kennington, SE11 4PW. Saturday 12 November for a 10.30 prompt departure. 

I'd also suggest that you think about joining the London Cycling Campaign. We need a voice that can talk for us all.