Ex-cycling commissioner and others launch Human Streets to keep pressure up on City H and TfL

Former London cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan has joined forces with award-winning blogger Danny Williams and others to form a group, Human Streets, that aims to keep the pressure on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to deliver the infrastructure they say the capital’s cyclists need.

In an article published by the London Evening Standard that also appears on the newly launched Human Streets website, Gilligan likens recent press articles criticising the city’s cycle superhighways and calls for the infrastructure to be torn up to be no more than “post-truth politics, best left to the speeches of Donald Trump.”

But he warned – not for the first time – that the momentum built during the last three years of Boris Johnson’s tenure at City Hall risk being undone as groups opposed to giving more space to cycling seek to thwart such efforts.

> Andrew Gilligan tells Sadiq Khan: Time is your enemy

The road lobby may not destroy the current cycle tracks but the real aim, I imagine, is to block any more — and it seems to be succeeding,” he cautioned.

“Despite Mayor Sadiq Khan’s promise to triple protected lanes and “significantly increase” spending, the cycling programme has all but ground to a halt.”

Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, told road.cc last month that some well-known names were among those who had applied for the role of cycling commissioner, “from journalists to politicians and cycling superstars, so a real range of people who’ve been very involved in the lobby.”

> Deputy Mayor: London's new cycle highways will be better than before

She added that the pay, hours and level of seniority were the same as they had been for Gilligan when he occupied the post.

She also insisted that Khan and his team were committed to prioritising cycling and walking initiatives, but would consult on them in a way that would not lead to “some residents, who don’t see themselves as cyclists, feeling disadvantaged.”

But Gilligan, appointed by Johnson in January 2013 to the newly created position, noted: “My old job … has been vacant for six months.

“There’s no one in the Mayor’s office to rebut the nonsense or hassle TfL. My successor will work just 11 hours a week on cycling, and sit much further from the Mayor than I did.”

Rejecting the current administration’s claims that infrastructure completed under his watch had failed to take consult adequately and of pushing the projects through, he outlined some of the challenges he and Johnson had needed to overcome.

“The superhighways took three years to build — only in England could that be called rushing it. You should, and we did, build as much consensus as possible.

“But for some, I learned, no compromise could ever be enough, no consultation ever too long, and the real aim was to filibuster projects out of existence.

“I hope Khan doesn’t waste too much time finding that out,” he added, pointing out that there are just three and a half years left before the next mayoral election.

Looking at current projects, Gilligan said: “The last gap in the east-west superhighway, along Birdcage Walk and past Buckingham Palace, is meant to be finished by now. It hasn’t even been started, though there is work on Constitution Hill.

“Only one of three other superhighways we consulted on nearly a year ago has the go-ahead. A second, the Westway, will probably be scrapped, and a third — through Regent’s Park — watered down to pointlessness. Proposed segregated lanes on South Lambeth Road have been axed.”

Turning to two of the criticisms levelled against cycle superhighways – that they increase pollution and congestion – he said: “Data from the superhighway routes, published on the London Air website, shows that pollution since they opened has, if anything, fallen.”

He added: “Thanks to the superhighway, 52 per cent of all traffic on the Embankment is now bicycles. Just one lane of that four-lane road, which is what we took out to create the cycle track, is now carrying more traffic than the other three lanes put together.”

Gilligan concluded: “Because we’re worried about the lack of progress, a few of us are starting a new initiative, Human Streets, to keep an eye on cycling, push back against the antis and hold the Mayor to account.

“We’ll know soon how serious Khan is about cycling. Because it’s difficult, perhaps it will also tell us how serious he is as Mayor.”

We have asked the Mayor’s office for their reaction to his remarks.

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.


HarrogateSpa [505 posts] 1 year ago

Gilligan understands that if you try to satisfy everyone, you end up doing nothing whatsoever. Instead, if all the logical arguments are on your side, you have to consult (but not endlessly), then get on with it.

Too much compromise, and too much tokenism, has led to most of the 'cycle infrastructure' in the UK being pointless and unusable. At least London has got something serious. Let's hope Sadiq Khan wants to keep going on this.

emishi55 [175 posts] 1 year ago

I'm still waiting for the outcome of the new job of Cycling Commissioner  - despite it being bundled with walking (yes walking is good, but last tme I looked I would say there's a pretty good walking network in London...and the rest of the UK for that matter).


Haven't heard much from Andrew Gilligan for a while. He should have been used as an interim (at least) while Sadiq was deeciding on a new commissioner. This cost us valuable time and effort in trying to keep the antis at bay (CS11 - Regents Park to Swiss Cottage), and Tavistock Place (cycle tracks doubled in width and on both sidea of road space reallocated from motors which also was restricted to anti-rat-running measures) taxis & local prima donna NIMBYs.


Gilligan got into his stride fully in about his last year or so of office. The document Human Streets he produced, right near the end of his tenure, has to be (one of) the best produced for cycling by a government organisation - though I admit I haven't yet read Sadiq's.

Gilligan was right when he said tha Sadiq should not lose momentum. But sadly he has. Giving time and energy to those against children having safe access to cycle through a London Park etc, and allowing those loveable taxi geezers the chance to show how smart they can be with producing their own professional looking alternative pamphlets to convince people that Camden's excellent cycle lanes (with junction to junction cyclists at peak hours) should be ripped out so people can get abaht in a proppa mo'tuh...

Luckily Valerie Shawcross has shown understanding of the needs of cyclists, though it has come across a slightly diluted due to the ranting and noise from the bikelash.


I will now go and read the article above!




emishi55 [175 posts] 1 year ago
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An excellent piece on Human Streets - and about time.

I'd given up checking the website which hasn't had a new piece since it began on May 28th.


I really hope Sadiq heeds the advice this time. And I do have high hopes for the new commissioner.

"I fear City Hall also thinks there’s some magic formula on cycling which can keep everyone happy. You should, and we did, build as much consensus as possible. But meaningful cycle improvements will never have unanimous support, no matter how long you consult on them. I soon learned that for some, no compromise could ever be great enough, any consultation period was always too short and the real aim was to filibuster everything out of existence. I do hope Sadiq doesn’t waste too much time finding that out."


I was disappointed that Sadiq felt able to share a platform with David Cameron, a united show against Brexit, but couldn't find the will or vision to make use of the valuable experience Andrew Gilligan had gained in his four years.


When he started out, he came to talk to us at Camden Cycling Campaign. I remember viewing him with some suspicion and doubt as I certainly hadn't been a fan of his nor of Boris at that time.

He talked however about some exciting plans, of intentions to create a cycling network built above the tube lines, using them as a kind of wayfinding reference. There would be an east-west and north-south axis,off of which other bike lanes would radiate. He showed a surprising awareness of the issues faced by cyclists, despite the fact he had as he admitted, only been cycling for six years at that stage.


Later, there was talk of how both Boris and Gilligan had had to get 'to grips' with some of the TfL staff, and thers who were dragging their feet inthe process of getting the job done.

I really do hope that the new commissioner is up to the task.



FatBoyW [247 posts] 1 year ago

Oh dear oh dear, well Sadiq - Fine words but plans and no action will result in you losing your next election I would hope. With so many Londoners using the infrastructure surely if you don't get on with it they'll turn on you?

if so, I hope so

FluffyKittenofT... [1941 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
emishi55 wrote:

I'm still waiting for the outcome of the new job of Cycling Commissioner  - despite it being bundled with walking (yes walking is good, but last tme I looked I would say there's a pretty good walking network in London...and the rest of the UK for that matter).

The walking network needs work though. Far too many pavements completely taken up with car parking bays (or cars parked there illegally), forcing you to walk in the road, when cars then race down them at ludicrous speed. And crossings put in stupid places and drivers habitually ignoring zebras and even light-controlled crossings and getting away with it.

But lumping the two modes together suggests a low priority given to both.

I don't trust Khan. He seems much like Boris, in being mostly about personal ego and ambition rather than principles (though in Boris's case that was a saving-grace, given what his ideology nominally was, and at least he actually cycled).

dottigirl [811 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Quelle surprise.

Anyone following the mayoral election should've seen this coming. Khan was lukewarm at best on cycling.