I’m pleased to back most of the ‘10 by 2020‘ Mayoral Safer Cycling Challenge, published yesterday by Stop Killing Cyclists.
I’ve cycled all my life, I’ve commuted to work by bike all my adult life, and I’ve been active on and off in cycling campaigning locally for many years, including attending several of the Stop Killing Cyclists die-ins and various LCC bike protests.
Cycling policy isn’t just about safety, or healthy exercise. Yes, we need to reduce the thousands killed and seriously injured on our roads, and the 9,500 people who die prematurely because if air pollution, and cycling can play a really big part in that. But cycling is also about coping with a growing population without our roads grinding to a halt, and our public transport system becoming hopelessly overcrowded. Perhaps more importantly, cycling is about making London a more civilised city, one in which our communities are no longer cut up by noisy polluting roads.
So I completely support Donnachadh’s call “to speed up the pace of transforming London into a safer, healthier and more beautiful city, fit for humans aged from 5 to 105 to cycle, walk and do business in safely.”
The ten point plan drawn up by Stop Killing Cyclists is a brilliant start on getting there. Here’s my response:
1. 10% BY 2020
Will you commit to investing 10% of TfL budget on cycling infrastructure by 2020, building up each year from current minuscule 1.4%?
I would aim for this, but I will not guarantee it. It’s such an important issue that I’m going to explain why in quite some detail.
First, I should say that I in my day job I have led on the Green Party Group’s budget work for the past four years, developing detailed proposals to get cross-party support for spending at least 2% of TfL’s budget to match the proportion of trips taken by bike. We’ve shown that this money can be found, and have worked with cycling groups to demonstrate it can be usefully spent. We’ve made this position credible and widely accepted.
I like the chutzpah and ambition of 10%, but don’t think it’s a credible policy to commit to.
Lifting it to 10% by 2020 would mean spending something close to £0.9bn in that year on cycling, which is around £0.8bn more than is currently planned by TfL (my best guess, they won’t publish these figures). That is equivalent to half the capital budget for the tube that year, and twenty times the bus capital budget. If we raised cycle investment by that much, what gives?
I have thought a lot about this, and have three suggestions as to how we could get cycling spending up well beyond 2%:
- Scrap damaging plans to build motorway bridges and expand road capacity, and raise the congestion charge, which together could bring in perhaps £0.1-0.2bn a year.
- Urgently review the capital investment plans for public transport. Some tube and train upgrade programmes could be slowed down, giving more money to cycling. This could be justified if cycling could be shown to get more benefits in terms of public safety and facilitating people’s journeys in a rapidly growing city. But I wouldn’t want to leave TfL without enough money to upgrade its dirty old bus fleet, for example.
- Try to introduce a pay-as-you-drive charging system across London. This is Green Party policy and could raise the money required, but it may need extra powers from government so I couldn’t guarantee it would be in place raising enough money by 2020.
There’s a further issue. Greens have led a cross-party coalition to increase the cycling budget to something nearer 2% each year since 2011, but TfL has then underspent by a huge margin. They claim they can’t develop the plans quickly enough, and can’t recruit the staff. I’ve worked with cycle campaigners to counter those claims, and show 2% is doable. But 10% would be an incredible stretch. I’d love it to be possible, but I’m not convinced it is. As Mayor I could allocate £1bn, but I doubt much would get spent.
I don’t want to make easy promises that I cannot guarantee keeping on such an important issue. So I am happy to commit to spending more than 2% each year up to 2020, and to aim for 5% of journeys to be taken by bike by 2020, with a target of 10% by 2025.
2. END HGV/BUS BLIND SPOT
Will you require full blind-spot safety equipment (Left Hand Side CCTV and alarms) to be installed in all existing and new HGVs, buses, coaches and Tipper Trucks entering London?
Yes, absolutely. No vehicle should be allowed on the road if the driver cannot always see vulnerable road users next to or in front of them. It’s particularly galling to know that many drivers can’t see you sitting in an ASL box at traffic lights – talk about designing in danger!
I’d also specify low cab vehicles in all procurement for GLA, TfL, Met Police and Fire brigade contracts, and encourage major construction firms to follow suit.
3. MINI-HOLLANDS FOR ALL
Will you fund a Mini-Holland Programme for all London Boroughs within your first term?
Yes. The interest shown in the first round of applications shows that most boroughs want to do this, if given the money and technical support. We could turn two million journeys a day from car to bike trips in outer London alone if we really want for this.
One lesson I’d learn from the current programme is that resident engagement is key. I’d want local cycling and walking groups involved from the start, winning resident and business groups round to a vision of safer streets and experimenting with temporary layouts.
4. PHYSICALLY PROTECTED CYCLE-LANES
Will you support a comprehensive grid of Go-Dutch standard physically protected cycle-routes across the TfL road network to enable people of all ages and abilities to cycle safely?
Yes. I was appalled when I saw the not-so-superhighway going through Peckham last year with almost no segregation at all, and in some cases cycle lanes being removed, and blogged about it here. This wouldn’t happen under my watch.
On many roads this should be a simple matter of reallocating excessive space from vehicles to cyclists, and having the budget and staff to get it done. On others it’s more difficult, and needs a city-wide strategy to reduce traffic levels so that road space can be shifted to cyclists without causing gridlock. We’re finally seeing that now on stretches of Cycle Superhighway, and I want them everywhere.
5. LONDON 20 MPH ZONE
Will you support a 20mph speed limit across London (excluding motorways)?
Yes, I’ve long supported 20mph speed limits. Here I was in the red coat in 2011 organising a campaign for a 20mph limit throughout Camberwell:
We also need better enforcement to go with it. I live in Bromley and notice the increase in speeds as I leave Southwark on my commute home. But I also notice plenty of speeding and aggressive behaviour in 20mph areas. The Met Police should be told to enforce 20mph, and we need to employ a network of average speed cameras.
6. SAFER LEFT HAND TURNS
Will you support the introduction of the Idaho law, allowing cyclists to turn left when traffic is free at junctions, with full legal priority for pedestrians, when doing so and support an emergency programme of installing safe protected left-hand turns at a minimum of the 500 junctions that were originally promised to be reviewed by Boris Johnson by the end of your first term?
I’m very reluctant to support this one, because I see so much antisocial behaviour by all road users including cyclists and don’t want to create more opportunities for conflict. Vulnerable pedestrians should be able to cross the road without fear of some boy racer cutting them up. Legal niceties don’t cut it, as plenty of cyclists know at great personal cost!
So I would want to urgently review all junctions in London where there have been a significant number of KSIs in recent years and come up with a plan for each and every one within a few months of taking office, including emergency measures such as the ‘Idaho law’ if it’s appropriate, and plans to permanently fix the junctions so that rule can be revoked.
7. END LETHAL TIME PRESSURES ON BUSES/TIPPER TRUCKS
Will you end the lethal paid by timed delivery regimes for HGVs in the construction industry and end dangerous system of paying for bus performance by contracted Excess Waiting Time Targets?”
I would do everything in my power to pursue this.
My first step would be to ensure no GLA, TfL, Met Police or fire brigade contract ever specifies this, and to ask all subcontractors to follow suit. I would also work with the construction industry, as mentioned under question 2, to try and get broad agreement to avoid these.
Ultimately, I believe this issue needs to be taken up by Parliament, banning the practice across the country.
8. SQUARES AND STREETS FIT FOR HUMANS
Will you support a programme of making our beautiful major squares and shopping streets fit for humans, by closing them to motorised transport, including: Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Parliament Square, Bank Junction, etc ?
Yes, and we have great examples from London and other world cities like New York of public spaces thriving once this happens. Your list is a good starting point, but I would want to extend this beyond central London. We could be really radical in re-imagining town centres across the capital only having access by foot, bus and bike (plus tubes, trams and trains, of course).
9. TWO TfL BOARD PLACES FOR CYCLISTS
Will you appoint two cycling representatives to the TfL Board, nominated by cycling groups and change its name to the London Cycling, Walking and Transport Authority?
I would definitely want to shake up the TfL Board, making a number of changes:
- One representative apiece for walking and cycling
- Getting rid of Peter Anderson due to his company’s role in lobbying against Cycle Superhighways
- A representative for the major trade unions, to help improve industrial relations
- Fewer big business representatives, and more representing networks of smaller firms
- Bring more women and BME people onto the board, to make it more representative of London
On the second point, no I wouldn’t rename TfL. Walking and cycling are forms of transport just like trams, buses, tube trains and all the rest. It would be expensive and wasteful, and I’d much rather focus on transforming our streets rather than the name of our transport authority!
10. TIPPER TRUCK BAN
Will you ban tipper trucks at rush hour and introduce a scheme whereby electric delivery trucks to bring in goods from HGVs parked in outer London, into central London and promote cargo bikes for last mile deliveries?
Yes, I would ban tipper trucks and HGVs at rush hour. Where Boris has focussed on delivery teams and narrow business interests, I want to focus on lives cut short by dangerous roads. People should come before profit.
I think we urgently need a comprehensive plan for commercial vehicles of all kinds, from the big lorries to the half-empty delivery vans racing around our streets. We need to look at the whole of London as well, reducing the number of unnecessary HGV and van journeys in outer London as much as inner London. We have to reduce traffic across London, and this must include commercial vehicles.
My pledge to cyclists
In answering these questions, I have to make clear that policy isn’t in the gift of Green Party politicians. It is decided by our members. So my first pledge is to champion this list in our policy debates, whether or not I am selected by party members.
My second is to take this list into City Hall if I’m elected to the London Assembly.
It was Greens in City Hall, working with campaigners, that got us where we are today. Our London Assembly Members stopped TfL cutting the miserly £5m cycling budget in 2002, and who consistently raised cycling when nobody else saw it as a serious transport issue. Since then, TfL has spent almost half a billion pounds on cycling. For years, cycling wouldn’t get a look in without Jenny and Darren in the room.
I’ve helped Jenny and Darren develop a cross-party consensus in favour of cycling. We still need Greens in there pushing this case.
Whether I am Mayor of London, or a London Assembly Member, I pledge to keep up this record and ensure that cycling (and walking) are championed in City Hall.