I came to your ‘Town Hall’ in Richmond today, because I wanted to hear about your policy on cycling.
You talked a lot about transport and clean air being priorities for your campaign, and you mentioned the thousands of premature deaths that we can blame on air pollution. You also talked about protecting the TfL budget, and how transport is a key part of opening up the spaces we want to use for all the homes London needs to build.
And you talked about what a great job Boris has done as mayor. One attendee asked you if there were things that Boris has got wrong, and you didn’t say anything about transport.
And then I asked you about cycling. I quoted from Boris’ introduction to the review of his cycling strategy, three years on (in this PDF):
“But knowing what I do now, we would have blasted ahead with our new segregated cycle lanes from the beginning.”
At the same time, someone had asked you about clean air, so you started off talking about some of the measures you’re hoping to take:
- Ultra low emissions buses
- Electric black cabs
- Electric private hire vehicles (‘PHVs’ you said — I’m intrigued to know how many in your audience know what a PHV is)
- Persuading people to retrofit vehicles
And, if I’m honest, I was impressed that you have clearly either thought hard about goods vehicles, or someone in your campaign has. You talked about how we need fewer HGVs on London’s roads, and some of the strategies that might achieve that.
You talked about Boris’ junctions programme, and improving all of these, to make cycling safer, and how this is an ongoing programme you seemed to be committing to, because you believe cycling should be a safe thing to do.
Which, frankly, is why I just don’t understand your transport policy. In other areas of policy, you talked about things that have worked elsewhere, about not micro-managing, about getting things done, and an awful lot about transport and environmental commitments.
It’s good that I wrote a lot of this down at the time, because, when I think back, all I hear is:
“I’m positively hounded by cycle campaigners who just seem to be about one thing, and you’re either with them or against them.”
You said that the five cycle superhighways would be finished, and that you’d then wait to see if they worked — if they don’t work, it sounds like you’ll pull them out. You told me that lots of things needed to be done to support cycling, and that could include segregation, but it was very clear to me that that is the bit you’re really struggling with.
In my question, I actually didn’t ask you about segregation, though — I asked you something like:
“Given that two of your key policy areas are transport and clean air, will you maintain Boris’ level of investment in cycling, and will you commit to carrying on where Boris has left off?”
And sadly, you don’t seem prepared to commit to either. So if you genuinely believe what you said — that cycling journeys need to double again in the next few years — then I wonder, how will you achieve that, when the only cycling in your manifesto is children cycling in the park?