Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate in next week’s London mayoral election, has pledged his support to the Sign for Cycling manifesto of the London Cycling Campaign, and has also outlined his plans to grow cycling in the capital to British Cycling’s Chris Boardman.
Branded “the anti-cycling candidate” earlier in the campaign, Goldsmith’s pledge to support the three key pillars of LCC’s Sign for Cycling initiative comes 24 hours after his rival – and frontrunner in the May 5 election according to the opinion polls – Labour’s Sadiq Khan likewise gave his support to them.
The three Sign for Cycling pledges, which are also backed by Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon, Sian Berry of the Green Party and the Women’s Equality Party’s Sophie Walker, are:
A tripling of the extent of the Cycle Superhighways programme
Creating the opportunity for every borough to have a Mini-Holland scheme of cycling and walking
To make sure ‘Direct Vision’ lorries become the norm on London’s streets.
In a statement, Goldsmith said he is “committed to achieving the three-point agenda of LCC’s Sign for Cycling campaign” and that he would “protect the cycling investment London so urgently needs.”
He said that if elected, he would “spend at least £100m a year in order to deliver more space for cycling, a mini Holland in every borough - provided communities are fully engaged in the design process - and also safer and fewer lorries.
"I am the only candidate that can promise investment in cycling,” he insisted. “Sadiq Khan’s £1.9bn experiment will pull money out of the transport network and you cannot sacrifice that amount of cash without something having to give. Investment in cycling would be put at risk."
LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha commented: “London is the winner with this fantastic news. It means that both Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan have now committed to meeting the three-point agenda of our Sign for Cycling campaign, and are promising to keep up the momentum achieved in recent years by Boris Johnson, in getting London cycling.”
Goldsmith’s qualification that local communities be “fully engaged in the design process” is one that may ring alarm bells among some campaigners.
Last month, blogger David Arditti branded the Richmond Park and North Kingston MP “the anti-cycling candidate” after he accused Enfield Council of rushing through its Mini Holland scheme and also said he did not view Cycle Superhighway 11 – backed by two thirds of respondents to a consultation – as a “fait accompli.”
Previously, he had also said that he would rip up the Cycle Superhighways if they were shown not to help cut air pollution, and in a public meeting at Richmond Town Hall at the end of April complained that he was being “positively hounded by cycle campaigners.
In this interview conducted at Hyde Park Corner with Boardman, who is British Cycling’s policy advisor, Goldsmith said he believes getting more people cycling could help improve air quality in London.
Speaking about opposition to some of the cycling schemes being rolled out in London, he said: “I’m a localist, so I will always try my hardest to work with communities, with local businesses and residents to ensure that they are part of the process.
“I think that when you develop a community, it can put the shackles up; when you work with a community, you almost always get the right outcome.
“However, the Vauxhall Bridge cycle lane is a good example of something that was bitterly opposed but is now broadly very popular, and it works,” Goldsmith added. “So the fears people had were not borne out.”
He made it clear, however, that in some situations, rather than put permanent infrastructure in place he would prefer to see temporary changes made before fully committing to proposals, or indeed backtracking on them.
He said: “I think there is a case to be made, when there is a particularly controversial scheme that’s been proposed, of using temporary planters – putting them down for a year or a few months to see how it works, to see whether or not people’s concerns about that scheme are based on any kind of reality. If they’re not then you do it properly, if they are then you think again.”
This Friday, LCC and The Times newspaper are jointly hosting a cycling and transport issues hustings that will be attended by all the mayoral candidates who have so far expressed support for Sign for Cycling, as well as Respect’s George Galloway and Peter Whittle of UKIP, neither of whom has yet pledged to it.
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.