Blackfriars Bridge debate rescheduled as Jenny Jones claims Mayor didn't read key report

Green Party's mayoral candidate queries whether Boris has cyclists' best interests at heart

by Simon_MacMichael   June 24, 2011  

Blackfriars Bridge.jpg

Jenny Jones, Green Party candidate for next year’s London mayoral elections, has revealed that her motion to debate the removal of a 20mph speed limit on Blackfriars Bridge will now be heard on 20 July. A debate and vote on the issue a fortnight ago was abandoned at the last minute after Conservative Assembly Members walked out. Ms Jones has also claimed that neither Mayor Boris Johnson nor his staff have read a 2008 Transport for London (TfL) report recommending 20mph speed limits on London’s Bridges.

The Tory walkout earlier this month was claimed to be in protest at their perceived lack of representation on various Greater London Assembly committees. However, members of the capital’s cycling community, including the London Cycling Campaign which is pressing to have the 20mph limit retained, were angered by the apparent lack of concern regarding an issue that has the full support of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Assembly Members.

While a vote in favour of Ms Jones’s motion would not in itself compel the Mayor to overturn his decision that the 20mph speed limit be removed once current roadworks at the northern end of the bridge have been completed, it would result in considerable pressure being put on him to do so. Meanwhile, LCC is orchestrating a ‘photo petition’ to get him to reconsider his decision, and Transport Minister Norman Baker also said recently that he would push TfL to have the 20mph limit retained.

Writing on her blog, Ms Jones says: “I have just been told by the Mayor that neither he nor his staff have read the 20mph bridges report which Transport for London produced in 2007 and was published in 2008. The report makes a clear case for introducing 20mph on bridges across the Thames and outlines the savings which would result from the decline in cyclist and pedestrian casualties.

“Boris says that Ken [Livingstone, to whom Ms Jones acted as Deputy Mayor] didn’t see it either (I will check with him), which is rather naughty of TfL. I am truly amazed by this revelation, as I naively assumed that Boris could not have made any decisions about Blackfriars Bridge without reading this essential document - or at least having one of his advisors (paid £120,000) read it for him. I know Boris doesn’t do detail, but Blackfriars Bridge is one of those life and death issues where a Mayor really should pay attention.”

She continues: “Many of you are aware that at the London Assembly’s last plenary, a motion to keep Blackfriars Bridge at the speed limit of 20mph was on our agenda. Sadly, the Tory group staged a pre-planned walkout, making us inquorate, and all the remaining business fell, including the motion.”

“Even if it had passed, the motion wouldn’t have been binding on Boris, but it would have meant he’d feel the pressure and might, just might, tell Transport for London (TfL) to bow to public pressure. The real problem is, Boris just doesn’t ‘get’ the need for 20mph,” she adds.

Ms Jones refers to a report called Braking Point that she produced in April 2009 that recommended 20mph as a speed limit throughout London to promote road safety, and which gained support from all four parties, with the proposal that it be trialled in two boroughs.

“When I later approached Boris with the names of two councils who wanted to be part of the pilot and go 20mph all over their boroughs immediately, Boris expressed huge disbelief that any council could truly want to do that,” she says. “He simply couldn’t believe that they wanted to apparently slow the traffic down, and so the money from TfL wasn’t forthcoming.

Ms Jones claims that “The Blackfriars Bridge issue is becoming a barometer for Boris’ mayoralty. It’s a bridge that has caused a lot of problems over the years, seeing several unnecessary and tragic cyclist deaths. These days, not only is the ‘traffic’ on and around Blackfriars mostly cyclists and pedestrians, the economic argument is that the biggest cause of congestion is road crashes (when I was knocked off my bike by a car on the Old Kent Road and broke my wrist, I blocked one lane of traffic for 10 minutes at rush hour until the ambulance came to take me away) and so lose businesses millions of pounds.

She asks: “Will this cycling Mayor actually listen to cyclists and road safety campaigners to make sensible choices for pedestrian and cyclist safety, or will his Tory instincts kick in once again and deny logic and common sense? Or perhaps he will do his usual best to avoid making any decision at all, especially a decision that might put him at odds with car drivers, whom he sees as his natural voters.”

Regarding the rescheduling of her motion on Blackfriars Bridge, Ms Jones says: “I will be talking to the otherpolitical parties about bringing the motion on Blackfriars Bridge back to the next Assembly plenary on the 20th July, in exactly the same form as before. Some of the Tories have said they will have a free vote on this, so if they stay in the room to vote, we might see some cross party agreement that cyclist and pedestrian and motorist safety is more important than the Tory fixation on motorists being more important than anyone else on the roads.”