Saturday, 14 January 2012

Boris Johnson says London's roads are fine for cycling as they are. City of London says cycling standards will 'not be adequate' as they are and commits to safer streets for all; to cyclable streets. It's not perfect but I doff my cap to the politicians of the City of London.

City of London rush hour - welcome to the bicycle
It's taken a year. But something quite monumental has just happened in the City of London. 

A year ago, the City issued its draft Local Implementation Plan. Some of you, reading this blog at the time, took the time to read the background and got stuck in. You sent letters, petitions and intelligent comments to the City's politicians and told them their plan just wasn't good enough. 

You argued in particular, that the Square Mile's worsening road safety record was no longer acceptable. You argued that conditions for cycling were inadequate and you pointed out that it was not right to spend money for cycling on squeezing in a few scraps for cycling on the condition that this was 'designed with the needs of all road users in mind'. In short, you agreed with the article in last week's Local Transport Today that: "Cyclists' inclusion in carriageway design should start from the basis of expecting equal rights to personal safety for all road users. If this has an effect on other users then that must be accepted". 

And then, last Friday, the City of London announced that Boris Johnson and Transport for London had signed off on revisions to that Plan. The City of London has committed to change how it thinks about its streets. Specifically, it has revised its local implementation plan to include these commitments:

I think this an amazing result and a serious 'chapeau' to the City of London's politicians. The process has been slow and cumbersome. But it has been debated, discussed, argued about and consensus reached. 

The City of London expects that by 2020, 10% of all people travelling into or through the Square Mile will do so by bicycle (Boris Johnson, Mayor of London is planning on only 5% of all trips and not until 2030 - handily). And then it makes this astonishing statement:

In this one statement alone, I think the City of London sets itself ahead of London's Mayor Boris Johnson. Here is the very heart of 'old' London saying that people on bikes deserve more of a place in London's future.

The Times: 20 December 2011, comment by the Sports Editor
In December (December 20 2011), the sports editor of The Times wrote an opinion piece. He declared Boris Johnson's efforts to promote cycling 'a pathetically little measure'.

By contrast, the City of London has recognised there is a need for real change. In doing so, I think the City has set a statement that the future is a different place, arguably that the future aspires to less pollution, to safer roads, to less congestion and to include people on bikes as a serious part of that future. By contrast, London's Mayor is singularly bad at making such bold commitments for fear he might upset a hardcore of voters, perhaps. He is at least consistent in claiming that London's streets are just fine for cycling as they are. The thing is, Boris Johnson's wrong. And the fact that the City of London is prepared to say that current cycling standards will not be adequate for long is a sign that things are beginning to turn against the Mayor on this point.

I'll be reviewing the City of London documents in more detail over coming weeks. But for now, my thanks to everyone (and there are many of you) who wrote, who petitioned and who talked with the City of London. And above all, my thanks to the politicians and the officers of the City of London who listened, who argued, who often disagreed. But who found enough consensus to move things forward.