There are 800,000 regular cyclists in London and they have every reason to turn up at the polling stations on May 1st in London.
The mayor doesn’t run everything in London but he or she does have powers over the things that matter to cyclists, including the budget, the management of Transport for London and creating the strategic plans that govern the city’s transport, planning and the environment.
Probably the most obvious example of the difference the mayor can make is the creation of the congestion charging zone in 2003 leading to a one third increase in cycling within a year. “A good and effective mayor can really make London a more liveable city," says the director of the London Cycling Campaign, Koy Thomson, “We’re voting for the kind of London we want to call home."
It’s worth remembering that the May elections are not just for the London mayor but also for the London Assembly. Assembly members can use their power to approve the Mayor’s budget to secure policy commitments. Using their two pivotal votes Green Party members for example have pushed through funding for key cycling and walking measures such as greenways and cycle training
The question for voters is which candidate will genuinely make a London a more liveable city and a city that truly welcomes cycle users. All the leading candidates told the LCC’s magazine London Cyclist that they are pro-cycling. And indeed they need to be behind cycling, because without a 400% increase in cycling from 2000 to 2025, the anticipated increase in population of one million will mean that London’s transport system will grind to a halt. Under Ken Livingstone cycling has soared by more than 83% in the capital, while it’s barely changed in the rest of the UK, but there is still along way to go to the 400% target.
The London Cycling Campaign asked the four leading Mayoral candidates (Sian Berry (Green); Boris Johnson (Conservative); Ken Livingstone (Labour) and; Brian Paddick (Lib-Dem) to comment on the LCC’s 10 point cycling manifesto for the elections (see below).
The one cycling measure that the four leading candidates all agree on is a mass bike hire scheme modelled on the successful Paris Velib scheme.
Sian Berry unreservedly backs all the other LCC manifesto points, including a 20mph speed limit on most urban streets, and adds that she would seek to increase spending on cycling threefold by 2012.
Boris Johnson’s emphasis is on deterring cycle theft (he’s had 7 bikes stolen) – he has pledged to provide 10,000 more bike stands in London. He is also considering allowing bikes to turn left at red traffic lights. Despite his cycling credentials Boris has upset many cyclists by planning to put motorcycles in all bus lanes – hitherto a cyclist refuge from lorries and cars.
Ken Livingstone’s cycling programme is backed by a promise of funding – he’s pledged to spend £500 million on cycling over ten years and proposes two new measures in addition to a mass bike hire scheme: 12 cycling super highways into central London and 15 bike zones around town centres. Ken is also committed to completing the 900 km London Cycle Network+. Brian Paddick’s push would be to reduce road traffic crime by both motorists and cyclists. He also backs reduced cycle theft, completion of the LCN+ and cycle training.
Cycling has grown in London over the past four years because of measures to restrain motor traffic and the allocation of funding for cycling and walking. To make London a city we can be proud of the next mayor, and the next London Assembly, need to accelerate the process of making London welcoming to old and new cyclists. Positive words are a fine thing but ultimately it comes down to concrete actions and financial commitment. Thus far, of the leading candidates only Sian Berry and Ken Livingstone have promised to sustain and increase funding for cycling. Cyclists will be watching to see if their rivals can match or beat those commitments.
London Cycling Campaign Mayoral and London Assembly Manifesto 2008
Achieving a major cultural shift from driving to cycling is central to the development of London as a sustainable, thriving and liveable city. Cycling must become an everyday way to get around for Londoners, including families and children.
Removing the many barriers to cycling will unleash suppressed demand and offer Londoners real choice. This means changing the status quo in favour of cycling.
With political will and the support of senior transport planners, a transformation akin to that seen in London’s bus services can be achieved for cycling in a single Mayoral term.
10 point plan to transform cycling in London
1. Make 20mph the standard speed limit on London’s streets to reduce road danger and encourage cycling and walking.
2. Make reducing road traffic crime a London-wide policing priority because these crimes lead to the most injuries and deaths.
3. Deliver free on-road cycle training for London’s children, subsidised training for adults of all abilities and compulsory training for highway engineers and transport planners.
4. Return one way systems and streets to two-way operation and create advantages for cycling and walking, thus maximising route choice and minimising diversion. Provide means and incentives for boroughs to support this shift.
5. Ensure high-standard cycle parking is available at every workplace, station and shopping area, as well as in all new homes.
6. Ensure the budget for the completion of the London Cycle Network Plus (LCN+) to a high standard in all 33 boroughs with effective removal of all barriers and the creation of strong network links between boroughs.
7. Adopt ambitious targets to encourage walking and cycling to all events and attractions supported by the Mayor, culminating in the first ‘active spectator’ Olympics in 2012.
8. Create a Paris-style mass cycle hire scheme by 2009 and include all Olympic venues by 2012.
9. Start a major campaign of action against cycle theft including a significant theft reduction target for the Metropolitan Police in every borough.
10. Produce a tube-style map showing strategically important and family friendly cycle routes to encourage Londoners to think of cycling as an everyday mode of transport.
To find out who you should be voting for on May 1st visit our Fantasy Mayor site.