Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Zac Goldsmith published his cycling manifesto today. Cycling should be a vote winner for him but he's really failing to impress so far.

Protestors against closing some of the gates into Regents Park, to reduce
rat running commuter journeys by car. I am starting to feel Zac Goldsmith
wants their vote but not mine
Earlier this evening, Zac Goldsmith told a crowd in Richmond that: "I’m positively hounded by cycle campaigners who just seem to be about one thing, and you’re either with them or against them." It sounds like George Bush and the war against terror. And it's not true, frankly.

Cycle campaigners are a tricky lot. There are, I have to admit, some grumpy and rather strongly-opinionated folk in the cycle campaigning community. I've argued with plenty of them.

Opinionated and grumpy, they may be. But they are also, as a rule, passionate, knowledgable and articulate. And they don't take kindly to people who tell them only half truths.

And what's more, pretty much anyone who has been on a bike in London is a 'cycle campaigner'. They have to be. Because they know all too well what it's like to be threatened by proper danger as they get about the place on a bike.

So I don't really understand why Zac Goldsmith told an audience in Richmond earlier today that 'you're either with [cycle campaigners] or your against them'. If you have time, have a read of the very fair summary of that meeting by Tim Lennon.

Earlier this week, TfL announced that a whopping 6,400 people had responded to its consultation to build a cycle highway via Regents Park to Swiss Cottage. Two-thirds of those people supported the cycle highway. There has been considerable local opposition, however, whipped up by someone who goes under no name on twitter. In order to get names on a signature (4,000, I believe), the campaign has presented 'facts' about the cycle highway that have been less than entirely honest.

Yet Zac Goldsmith has said the cycle highway here is not something he "consider[s] a fait accompli".

He says that "the question is not if we accommodate cycling and make it safer, the question is how". Well, I would like to know how Zac proposes to make cycling safer in London. Will it mean helmets and more training? Or will it mean safe, proven, infrastructure for cycling?

'The Mayor's Vision for Cycling' report

The early signs are that London's very new cycle infrastructure is working. Last week, Boris Johnson published a report written by his cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, which showed just how well its working. The report is pretty clear - the number of people cycling is way up on these routes. Congestion has not increased for other road users.

Does Zac mean he'll promise more of this? More segregated infrastructure on main roads? More roads made quieter for locals as well as for people who want to get about on foot or on a bike?

It's really not clear. He has already said that he hopes the cycle highways work but 'If the evidence showed that they didn't work, you'd have no choice but to rip them up.'  Does that mean that if people stand around with posters saying the cycle highways 'don't work' that he'll rip them up?

The new Blackfriars Road cycle highway
wasn't even open properly last week yet was already super
busy. Does Zac Goldsmith think this 'works' or will
he 'rip it up'??
Zac's cycling manifesto was published today. And the bulk of it seems to be about extending cycle hire.

At one point he talks about cycle highways and quietways. He says he'll "protect TfL's investment budget". He very specifically does NOT say he will protect the hard-fought for 10 year cycling budget (of which we have only seen the first year's investment).

Maybe Zac Goldsmith reckons he can win London by attacking cycling. But the thing is, all those cycling campaigners, yes, they are grumpy. But they are passionate. And I reckon they can swing a lot of voters who might vote Zac.

I am a swing voter when it comes to London politics. I want what's best for my city. As many of you know, I was hugely critical of Boris Johnson's 'cycling revolution' when it started. But Boris's team won me over because I felt they could deliver. And they have started to deliver.

I am not, I think, a natural Sadiq Khan supporter. Yet, when the London elections come round in two months' time, my swing vote may swing that way.

Zac Goldsmith is making it really hard for me to vote for him, unless he massively changes his tune on cycling and commits to proper continuation of the cycling investment plan.

There's still time for Zac Goldsmith to win the cycling vote. But he needs to show he takes cycling seriously. He hasn't done that yet, I'm afraid.