Our friends in Outer London

On Wednesday, Green London AM Jenny Jones tweeted the question that she will ask at next week’s Mayor’s Question Time:

Having given Biking Boroughs £25k to draw up extra plans, will you look again at giving them an additional multi-million pound ringfenced budget so they can take those ideas forward and contribute to your strategic targets?

The Biking Boroughs scheme was launched a year ago:

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s Transport Advisor, said: “2010 is set to be the year of cycling in the Capital, with the launch of London’s Cycle Hire scheme and the first two Cycle Superhighways. However, it’s in outer London that the greatest scope exists to increase the number of people travelling by bicycle. It’s staggering that half of all car trips in outer London are less than two miles in length, a distance you can cover on a bike in around 10 minutes.

“The Biking Boroughs scheme aims to harness the huge appetite that already exists for cycling in outer London, making it even easier to replace unnecessary short car trips with pedal power and delivering health benefits, better air quality and encouraging the use of local shops and town centres.”

At the time, each of the 13 boroughs were given £25k — enough to pay for one member of staff to think for a year, but not enough to actually do anything.

So yesterday, after this thinking time, the Mayor announced that he is giving the boroughs a few weeks to submit proposals for a slice of £4 million.  (I assume that the timing, a few days ahead of Jenny Jones’s MQT question is all part of the political pantomime.)  Divided amongst the 13 boroughs, that amounts to just £308,000.  But, the funding is spread over three years — so it amounts to about £100,000 per year each, running out after three years.

The Mayor’s press release helps us visualise what the fund means by telling us what fantastic things the boroughs could do with £4 million:

  • 40,000 new on-street cycle parking spaces, or…
  • training 200,000 lorry drivers in safety and awareness of cyclists, or…
  • training courses for 66,000 cyclists, or…
  • 100km of quiet cycle routes in suburban areas.

All initiatives which can already be seen working excellently in Waltham Forest.

I have my own preferred ways to visualise what this fund means:

We have thrown away more than 1,000 times as much money on a road building strategy that we have known for decades doesn’t work, and now we’re spending a tiny fraction of what it costs to do the one thing that has been shown to work.

But all of that aside, what really jumped out from the press release was a comment from Boris.  The delightful and charming thing about Boris — his only quality as a politician — is that when he gives a statement, he lets his own personality and thoughts (even when his own thoughts are empty waffle, as they frequently are) slip in amongst the PR speak.  So when Boris says this:

This funding will enable our friends in Outer London to develop exciting ways to make cycling bloom in their boroughs making it easier to replace some short car journeys with pedal power.

in amongst the marketing crap we get a little insight into the way he thinks.  We are not all just Londoners.  We are Londoners plus Our Friends In Outer London.  And, alongside his Important Duties to Londoners as Mayor of London, Boris occasionally finds a spare moment to charitably toss our friends some chickenfeed do our friends a favour.


3 thoughts on “Our friends in Outer London”

  1. Those “friends” are the main reason for Boris’ occupancy of the Mayor’s post given that Ken V Boris mapped pretty well onto Inner V Outer boroughs, so he’d be biting the hand that feeds him if that was an insult. Rather, the outer boroughs tend to have a rather antagonistic relationship to being part of London and TfL, for example their campaign against the GLC’s Fares Fair policy or Crossrail now.

    I think Boris is saying here “look, Outer Londoners, I know you like your cars but that you also think of yourself as green, here’s a bit of money for someone else to do a bit of cycling, but don’t worry, it’s not money or space taken away from your precious roads”.

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