Tag Archives: london assembly

Friday photo: star of the show

Boris Bike

This was during the first of the student protests last year, when Conservative Party HQ was smashed up for the cameras.  It was long over by this time, but there was still a large backlog of arrests being processed in the background and obviously it was still the top story on the rolling news channels.

The rest of Millbank, a dual carriageway which feeds traffic into Parliament Square, was a delight to cycle down thanks to the lack of vehicles.

London’s road network is, of course, vital, and disrupting the flow of traffic through it costs the economy eleventy gazillion pounds an hour.  Did the striking workers consider that before they marched down Whitehall yesterday?  Some motorists would have been forced to go the long way around thanks to their actions.  As Ed Miliband put it, referring to schools being closed, yesterday’s strikes caused a lot of inconvenience.  And how dare people put their livelihoods ahead of convenience.

It could have been a line borrowed from Conservative Assembly Members’ script.  Sorry, we can’t provide for cycling because to do so would mean taking away a tiny little bit of the provision we have made for motor vehicles, the Tories say.  It might mean making drivers slow down a little.  And that would cause inconvenience.  How dare cyclists ask to be allowed to cycle in conditions that don’t cause them to fear for their lives — conditions that effectively close the option of cycling entirely to large sections of the population — when to do so would cause a few people a bit of inconvenience.

Utter tripe in the outer boroughs

It was Transport Question Time at City Hall this week: the 25 London Assembly members’ monthly-ish check up on the chair and the commissioner of Transport for London — Boris Johnson and Peter Hendy respectively.  If you’re as big a loser as me, you’ll want to watch it here.  Alternatively, London Reconnections can usually be relied upon to post a report (but haven’t yet).

The fun bit starts at 38 minutes, where Jenny Jones (one of two Green AMs, and regular at Critical Mass) asks Boris what he is going to do in order to reach his (depressingly unambitious) target of five percent share for cycling by 2026, given that his existing flagship “cycle revolution” schemes — bike hire and “superhighways” — are only projected to generate 180,000 of the 1 million additional daily journeys that are needed to hit the target.  Jones is particularly interested in the Mayor’s ideas for the outer boroughs, whose modal share is especially low.  (Boris did, after all, campaign on a platform of ending Ken’s obsession with Zone 1.)

(Lets leave aside for now the fact that it is dubious whether bike hire will hit its 40,000 target, and there is absolutely no chance of “superhighways” creating their target 140,000 additional journeys, unless they are radically redesigned — so we shouldn’t be letting the Mayor get away with those 180,000 made up journeys.)

The Mayor’s waffling non-answer and farcical performance was a great insight into just how committed he is to a “cycling revolution”.  These are the fantastic initiatives that the Mayor thinks will more than double the modal share for cycling in London (my lazy paraphrasing — except #3: he really did say that):

  1. “More Sheffield Stands.”  Thanks.  Not having convenient parking can indeed be very annoying.  Just ask anybody: why don’t you cycle in London? “Oh, I’d love to, but there just aren’t enough Sheffield Stands.”
  2. “Waffle waffle erm, Biking uh Boroughs, mumble rarh, Bogota.”  [At this point the chair tells the Mayor off for wasting everyone's time.]
  3. “We want generally to see a London where motorists feel that they can find cyclists on any road.” Oh.  Right.  Hang on.  What?
  4. “Outer London Skyrides.”  After which everybody went home and put their bike back in the garage until next year.
  5. “Participatory activities.” No details on what these were, or how many hundred thousand cyclists they create.  Perhaps he means the guided bike rides on tube strike days?
  6. “Free cycle training.”  Doesn’t work.
  7. “Asked people to cycle or walk to school in Sutton.”  Looks like a very successful scheme: 85% of pupils walk to one school.  Walking is like cycling, right?  I’ll put them down as cyclists.  Close enough.
  8. “Thought about outer London bike hire, but decided it was too difficult.”

At one point during this list (I say “list”, it came out as an unstructured stream of straw-clutching) — just before we got to Skyrides, I think — Jenny interrupted the waffling to try at least to pin the Mayor down on one specific point (my paraphrasing from memory):

Jenny: Will you spend the £60 million needed to complete the London Cycle Network in the outer boroughs?

Boris: How much?

Jenny: £60 million

Boris: [derisive laugh quickly stifled] We’ve been doing skyrides…

When Jenny noted than none of these schemes had any chance of actually working, he replied that Jenny was — with all of the due respect, of course — talking “total and utter tripe.”  He was, he said, “doing an awful lot to try to encourage cycling.”

Let the ruling classes tremble at Boris Johnson’s cycling revolution.