Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Boris Johnson - you promised a 'cycling revolution' and you've completely failed to deliver. Even The Times suggests your thinking on cycling is way out of touch. Each of us can do something about this

Tomorrow's front cover of The Times
Two months ago, I telephoned the media team at News International. I wanted to know what they thought - as an employer - about the fact that one of their journalists had been run over by an HGV just outside their offices. That cyclist was a woman called Mary Bowers, a woman who is still in hospital and still in a coma.

What the team at News International told me was that this was not the first time.

'this is not the first such accident involving a member of staff. Following the horrific injuries suffered by a member of our staff last week, we will be talking to both the police and the Mayor's office to see whether safety for cyclists at that particular junction on The Highway can be improved.'

Those comments echo comments made by many, many others in recent months. Like these comments made last week by Peter Halliwell, the father of Jayne, killed on her bicycle in Oxford Street in 2010: "There needs to be a review of road safety in light of the recent number of deaths of cyclists...We’ve gone through a year and a half of sheer hell...The roads are not safe enough to take the boom [in cycling], he said. He said: “We visited Jayne’s friends and they all get around by bike. These kids work so bloody hard. “They don’t have much money of their own. They should have the freedom to cycle around ­London without fear. “They’ve got just the same rights as drivers.”

Today The Times editorial bangs this message home very very forcefully. Incredibly, it has gone as far as making its cycling articles free online and you can review most of these from this link here and this link here.

One article in particular stands out to me and that is a piece by Nicole Cooke - Olympic cyclist - which you can read here. Cooke says this:

Nicole Cooke, Olympic cyclist on Elephant & Castle junction:

"I certainly wouldn’t fancy riding across Vauxhall Cross or Elephant and Castle in rush hour, and those are only two examples. If we want more people to ride their bikes, we can’t have parts of the city where cyclists feel like they are taking a big risk just crossing a junction — it just shouldn’t be that way."

I have to cycle through either of these junctions to get to the centre of London every single day. They are horrible, nasty places and extremely dangerous for people on bikes and on foot.

Boris Johnson has been challenged about them - and in particular about Elephant & Castle, the same junction that Nicole Cooke describes - in the London Assembly. What does Boris Johnson say?

Boris Johnson on Elephant & Castle junction:

"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."

The Times - Commits to campaign for cities safe for cycling
People who have cycled in London have been saying that Boris Johnson's 'cycling revolution' is just whitewash - some blue paint on some newly resurfaced roads and not much else. I can think of no better riposte than that made by Nicole Cooke. If it's too challenging for one of our Olympic cyclists, then I am proud to say, it's too challenging for me. And for my niece, my little cousins, my mum, most of my friends. In fact, it's too challenging for most Londoners.

Boris Johnson is currently preventing Southwark Council from sorting out this junction and making it a safer place for everyone. Why? Because he thinks it is more important that 'traffic' flows smoothly through London's squares and high streets.

What Johnson forgets is that we are all traffic. Bicycles, pedestrians and drivers. And that we want to 'be' in these places not just 'whizz through' them.

Johnson is putting fast and efficient motoring ahead of every other transport policy. And I think that is wrong. And immoral.

Southwark Council undertook some very detailed research recently. Sufficient numbers of Southwark residents would like to cycle - sufficient in fact for 47% of all road trips that start in the borough to be by bicycle. But they don't cycle. I think they don't cycle because the Mayor of London - Boris Johnson - is trying to convince them that cycling around places like the Elephant & Castle roundabout is a sensible thing to do. It isn't. And they're voting with their pedals.

The Times is way more articulate on all these topics than I am. Have a read. And sign up to their manifesto. They are calling for an eight point plan and want politicians to wake up and act rather than spout the sorts of insane bumblings we are hearing from London's Mayor.

If you live in London and want to do something about this, you can. In May, we choose who runs Transport for London. The title is Mayor, but the job is transport:

"On 3 May, I will vote for the candidate who has promised the most to make London streets safe for bikes.”


If you're outside London or if you're a Londoner, then push at a national level and get behind the 8-point plan that The Times wants politicians, councils and transport authorities to sign up to. 


  1. You can very easily get around Elephant and Castle without having to use ANY of the roundabouts: there are cycle paths all the way around. The tfl journey planner can help you. Anyone who cycles on the roundabouts is asking for trouble.

    1. Why should cyclists avoid roads? Of course there are busy roads if we allow them to become fast, car dominated spaces. But we don't have to. They were not always like that. It's also not just roundabouts, but the main roads which TFL control. Last year, 9 of 16 died on the Mayors roads.

    2. the Elephant detour (besides only covering half the roundabout) adds significant time to a cycle journey through that area. Remember bikes are human-powered: cyclists don't choose longer routes because they're not efficient enough.

      In place like the Netherlands, it's motor traffic that takes the longer routes, while bikes are given safe, convenient, direct pathways.

      this, of course, makes perfect sense

  2. The problem with the cycle paths around E&C is that they go out of the way and are time consuming. Why should cyclists have to always give way? There is a strength in numbers around there these days, but it takes cajones to duke it out.

  3. Great news this morning on the radio about this campaign. I've been an occasional reader of your blog and thought there might be more about it on here.

    E&C roundabout is unpleasant and/or dangerous for everyone in my opinion - whether you are using it as a pedestrian, bus passenger or car driver - but I think as cyclists we get the best deal actually by being able to avoid it.

  4. Erm, it's worth pointing out that the eastern cycle bypass for E&C allows mixed mode travel by making you push your bike.

  5. If you want to help at the E&C we're lobying for a new, better, eastern bypass.

  6. I do raise an eyebrow at some of the suggestions in their eight point plan. Some of them encourage a perpetuation of the cursed superhighways and more cycle lanes - not exactly safer in my opinion, but definitely more visible

  7. I applaud The Times for this campaign. It is frustrating as an urban cyclist to see the poor provision for bikes while motor traffic runs riot. Cycling has the potential to make cities infinitely healthier and more liveable. Let's hope this helps create a cycling revolution.

  8. If you like the look of the Times campaign check out the LCC who are running the Love London Go Dutch Campaign -
    It is about normalising cycling by adopting Dutch standards to our town planning. Definitely the way forward!

  9. Boris Johnson is right 'If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable'. But that's hardly a ringing endorsement. He's missing the really important point here; you should be able to cycle across a world class city without having to keep your wits about you.

    I am not clear is whether it's Boris Johnson that's holding us back or it's senior management in Transport for London who are still looking backwards and regard the ever growing number of cyclists just as a nuisance.

    Cities grow because they are great places for people to live and work. Not because they have got a good traffic smoothing policy.

  10. This is such an interesting story at it gives in-depth information to the reader as well. Good thing you have it shared.