Zac Goldsmith promised that if elected Mayor of London he will double the level of cycling in the capital – but in comments that have seen him branded the “anti-cycling candidate,” he has accused Enfield council of “rushing through” its Mini Holland scheme, and insists he does not view Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) as a “fait accompli.”
The two projects are among the flagship schemes set under way by Boris Johnson as he nears the end of his eight-year tenure at City Hall, but both have attracted vocal opposition from some local residents and business owners. And now, it seems, the Conservative who wants to replace him.
Goldsmith’s comments have campaigners questioning how committed he is to following through Johnson’s Vision for Cycling in London should he succeed him as mayor, with blogger David Arditti saying he “is clearly shaping up as the anti-cycling mayoral candidate, not [a] fence-sitter.”
Last week Andrew Gilligan, appointed London’s first cycling commissioner by Johnson in 2013, told road.cc that opponents of CS11, the consultation for which closes today, were misrepresenting the facts to suit their own agenda.
Speaking about the proposed route from Swiss Cottage to the West End via Regent’s Park, he said: “Genuinely I think people have fundamentally misunderstood what’s happening here. What we’re seeing is a lot of opposition to things we’re not actually proposing.”
But Goldsmith insisted that he did not view CS11 as a ‘done deal,’ echoing his thoughts expressed about the wider Cycle Superhighway programme last month when he said that “if the evidence showed that they [Cycle Superhighways] didn't work, you'd have no choice but to rip them up.”
The Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, whose website for his mayoral bid says he will encourage “safer cycling” without yet setting forth how he will achieve that, said in a statement to the press on Wednesday about CS11, the consultation for which closes today:
I hear what local residents are saying and I am clear that changes of this scale need clear community consent.
I do not consider Cycle Superhighway 11 a ‘fait accompli’ and if elected I will ask TfL to clearly demonstrate that they have taken a holistic look at the combined impact of not just this scheme but also the construction work associated with HS2 and other developments on pollution, local buses and the school run.
I will be a mayor who will invest in making cycling easier and safer. Under Boris, cycling has doubled, and under my watch it will need to double again. The question is not if we accommodate cycling and make it safer, the question is how.
I expect the Cycle Superhighways to do a great job, but policy needs to be based on evidence, and if residents’ fears about congestion are borne out, then we will have to look again. We need a cycling programme that works for everyone.
He also spoke last week about the Enfield Mini Holland scheme, which he accused the local authority of rushing through, although the plans were announced two years ago and a public consultation was held.
In an article published in the Enfield Independent and shared on the Facebook page of campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists, he said: “I am not impressed with the way Enfield have done this. The problem with Enfield is they don’t seem to have taken the community with them on this.
“It has rushed ahead with the project. I have a number of complaints from residents and businesses saying they don’t feel they have been a part of the consultation process.”
Enfield has however undertaken consultation on the different aspects of the £30 million scheme. On one project, comprising segregated cycle lanes along the A105 from Palmers Green to Enfield Town, 51 per cent of respondents fully supported it with a further 9 per cent partly in favour; 39 per cent were against the plans.
When the results were revealed, Councillor Daniel Anderson, Enfield’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “The silent majority have spoken – and shown they actually like our plans – despite a vocal campaign which has been spreading disinformation about what the proposals would actually mean for Palmers Green.”
Reacting to Goldsmith’s comments, he said the Conservative politician was engaged in “political posturing” and was “trying to appease a small group of people.”
He added: “I will make no apologies for bringing in a scheme which will bring in £42 million to the local economy, be transformative and improve our infrastructure.
“It is a radical plan, but it is an ongoing process and it is being subjected to clear consultation and we have the full support of the current mayor’s office on this, so maybe Zac should speak to him,” he added.
A YouGov poll published last week puts Labbour candidate Sadiq Khan on 32 per cent, with Goldsmith on 25 per cent, and no other candidate getting more than 5 per cent. Some 23 per cent of voters remain undecided.
We have asked Goldsmith's press team for further details of his policies on cycling, or when he will publish them, but have not to date received a response.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.