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Another cycling false start in London

by Sean Howes, posted 23 March 2017

A small number of loud voices seem to be able to close down any kind of cycling scheme. Sean Howes explains the current politics of London cycling, and what you can do to help in your community. 

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In 2008 Boris Johnson got off to a bad start on cycling. He reduced London's congestion charge zone and focused on increased traffic flow. Despite this poor start by the end of his second term things were looking quite different. Andrew Gilligan’s influence was in full swing and real change was starting to be seen with Cycle Super Highways that really were super started to be delivered.


The changes were not just good for people cycling bundled in were many improvements for those walking. New crossings & a buffer from the traffic have made walking easier & feel safer. Finally, the argument had been won and that going forward cycling and walking would get real focus in London.


When Khan won the cycling community was jubilant and ready for the promises about tripling the distance of protected routes to be delivered. So, we waited and waited and waited. The Mayor kept saying nice things about cycling yet schemes that were ready to go started being delayed. A new route from Paddington to Acton that was ready to start was dropped with no plan for an alternative. Schemes that had long past consultation and had start dates in 2016 simply did not break ground. Then it got worse the Mayor started supporting the idea, through poor choice of wording, that cycle routes cause pollution and yet more schemes appeared to go missing in action.

Credit:  2017

The role of cycling commissioner sat vacant till February when Will Norman got the role. In one of his first meetings with cycling & walking campaigners, Sustrans Street Talks, he could not provide any details of new schemes and only could repeat the talking points of the past. More annoying still, we now have parks installing rumple strips for on shared paths that will make cycling & walking difficult and uncomfortable and Will Norman has said nothing. It feels like this new role despite being more hours that Gilligan's will achieve a lot less.


So here we sit despite bold promises it looks like inaction is the name of the game. This has allowed those who are against positive changes for walking & cycling to regroup. Arguments that were long ago put to bed have risen like zombies. Fights that were won are having be refought.  Despite bold promises and talk of large budgets the cycle revolution has stalled. Kahn looks to be repeating the mistakes of Johnson's 1st term in being too timid. Where Johnson focused on flow of cars Khans focus is flow of busses both of them distracted from a real & cost effective solution to moving around people in London.

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So, what can you do? If you live or cycle in London join the London Cycling Campaign. Once you have done that go to local group meetings and get involved. If you live on a scheme that is on hold write to your MP & councillors to let them know you want and support the route.


Those who want to block cycling are very good at making lots of noise from a small number of people and MPs/councillors getting letters and email from one side will assume that is the local mood. Make sure you are part of challenging that join a campaign group and be an active member.

Credit: Pexel Images  2017

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