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 ..is  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.”

OR

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.