Would you like to cycle through Forest Hill, pictured above? What about crossing the road, waiting in the cattle pens breathing in illegal levels of air pollution, or trying to cross where there aren’t any lights? We need safer, nicer streets for people.
There have been sixty seven collisions with pedestrians or cyclists around this junction in the past decade, seven of them resulting in serious injuries.
Throughout the constituency of Lewisham West & Penge, there have been 289 collisions for cyclists alone in the past decade, of which 38 have resulted in serious injuries.
This is an appalling toll of injury and misery that should shame the authorities – Transport for London, Lewisham Council and Bromley Council. But over that decade, they have barely made any progress in making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We still have too many roads with 30mph speed limits, no segregated cycle lanes, and too few pedestrian crossings with excessively long waiting times.
I see this myself, as I don’t drive; I often cycle the length of the constituency on my way to work, and walk about the place while campaigning. As a result, I’ve long supported campaigns to make our streets safer and nicer, for example in Camberwell in 2011 (fourth from the left):
The Green Party subscribes to the transport hierarchy which gives pedestrians the highest priority, followed by cyclists. So I am supporting campaigns by Sustrans and Living Streets to champion this agenda in Parliament.
Labour – little progress on their pledges
In the lead-up to the 2012 and 2014 elections, candidates in all parties pledged to champion walking and cycling. But there’s little sign of progress on their pledges.
For example, last May the Labour councillors for Forest Hill all pledged to deliver this pledge:
Forest Hill Town Centre is dominated by the junction of the South Circular with Dartmouth Park Rd. It is a busy, but spacious junction but very little space given to cyclists or pedestrians. The right turn for cyclists heading north along the South Circular and from that road on to Dartmouth Park Rd, are difficult and dangerous, the former especially so, as lanes have to be crossed while proceeding up hill after a bend. Space needs to be taken from motor traffic to enable cyclists to make all turns through this junction safely.
But there has been no tangible progress.
The same lack of progress is evident in Crystal Palace, where councillors pledged to:
“Provide segregated space for cycling to Transport for London design standard by restricting parking to right hand side of road going up Anerley Hill.”
In their case, given that the Conservative Party runs the council they might say they have less power to get this done. But I’ve not seen the issue being raised.
You need a Green in the room
Back in 2012, I was campaigning to get space for cycling on the political agenda. Only one political party leader joined cyclists on this ride, and then spoke at the rally:
Green politicians have worked on this agenda at the local council level, in the London Assembly and in Parliament.
In Lewisham, a Green Party councillor in Lewisham, Darren Johnson, got the council to roll out a 20mph speed limit on all roads.
At City Hall, Jenny Jones AM got Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson to triple the cycling budget and introduce the Superhighways and Cycle Hire schemes. Jenny is a true cycling champion, and was voted – by a clear margin – the most cycle-friendly candidate by Londoners on Bikes in the 2012 mayoral campaign.
In Parliament, Caroline Lucas MP championed a motion calling on the Government to show strong political leadership to boost cycling through extra funding and creating an annual Cycling Action Plan.
I won’t claim that nobody outside the Green Party understands this agenda. But in my experience, if you really want walking and cycling championed, your best bet is to get a Green Party politician in the room. When it comes to the choice between me and Jim Dowd, the Labour candidate for Lewisham West & Penge, I think the choice is pretty clear.
So if you want safe, pleasant space for pedestrians and cyclists, then vote Green on the 7th May.