For the second time in six months, a Greater London Assembly (GLA) debate on a motion regarding the safety of cyclists in the capital has had to be abandoned due to Conservative Assembly Members staging a walkout.
Labour Assembly Members Val Shawcross, who had tabled today’s motion, tweeted: “Every Tory on London Assembly walk out in a sulk after losing a vote - meaning that our motion on Cycling safety in London falls.”
The scenes were a repeat of what happened almost six months ago to the day when a debate on a motion by Ms Jones over controversial plans by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to remove a temporary 20mph speed limit at Blackfriars Bridge had to be shelved.
That walkout in June was ostensibly in protest at a perceived lack of representation of the Conservative Party on GLA committees, but it attracted a wave of criticism from cycling campaigners as well as from Ms Jones herself.
"It is striking that, keen as our mayor is on cycling, his party would react in such a childish way to this motion,” she said. “The Tories have shown a complete disregard for the safety of London's cyclists and pedestrians. The delay in discussing this motion could be fatal if it leaves Blackfriars Bridge unsafe."
At the time, the Evening Standard’s chief news correspondent Ross Lydall tweeted: “Cyclists, take note: Tory Assembly members don't give a toss about safety on Blackfriars bridge. They walk out to prevent City Hall debate.”
Today’s debate was also likely to see Mr Johnson come under fire, with he and Transport for London facing intense criticism for seeming to prioritise the free flow of traffic over the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Moreover, Labour Assembly member John Biggs took issue last week with delays in a promised safety review at the Bow roundabout where Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko lost their lives in recent weeks.
“Boris needs to get an urgent grip on safety at Bow roundabout and live up to his commitment to take immediate steps to make this junction safer. I welcomed the commitment he made two weeks ago, but he is now a week late with no sign of taking any action.
“He seems more concerned with media management than getting this problem sorted out. I have written to him seeking detailed information on safety at the junction nearly a month ago but he hasn’t bothered to respond. He needs to take the concerns of local people and cyclists’ seriously.”
That a walkout should once again happen ahead of a scheduled debate on a motion that is directly related to the deaths of three cyclists in the past two months at Kings Cross and the Bow Roundabout, with another killed in Bermondsey just last Friday, is sure to attract further criticism from cycling campaigners.
Not only does it appear to undermine the work that Assembly Members such as Mr Biggs, Ms Shawcross and Ms Jones are doing to try and improve the safety of the thousands of people who daily cycle about the city; it could also be interpreted as a slap in the face for those such as the London Cycling Campaign working on those issues, as well as the ordinary Londoners who have turned out en masse to flashrides aimed at highlighting conditions at Blackfriars Bridge and the danger presented by the road layout at a number of junctions in the city.
Whatever the claimed reasons behind today’s walkout - according to a tweet from Ross Lydall, in a statement afterwards, the Conservatives claimed it was "nothing to do with cycling" - and irrespective of whether Mr Johnson had advance knowledge of it, that’s a dangerous game to be playing with a mayoral election looming in the new year.
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.