Jenny Jones, the Green Party's candidate in May's London mayoral election, accused present incumbent Boris Johnson of slashing the city's road safety budget by two thirds since taking office during an acrimonious Mayor's Question Time yesterday (Wednesday). Ms Jones, who represents Southwark in the London Assembly, also took part in a 'die-in' staged by cyclists from that borough outside City Hall, calling for an end to the "murder of cyclists" on its roads.
Ms Jones accused Mr Johnson, currently neck and neck with his predecessor Ken Livingstone in the polls for the May 3 electionof cutting road safety funding from £30 million to £10 million during his tenure. She also urged him to bring in a 20mph speed limit for residential areas and make all lorry drivers in the capital subject to compulsory cycle awareness training.
“You have endlessly cut money for the London Cycling Network," she told Mr Johnson, " not everywhere but by and large, because there’s all sorts of schemes where had the money been there it would be safer for cyclists.”
The Mayor claimed Ms Jones had got her facts wrong and that he had doubled the sum spent while Mr Livingstone was in power, insisting: “This is not as good as I would like it to be. I would like there to be no casualties. I would like there to be no deaths. But what you can’t say is that cycling has got more dangerous.
“If you look at the money we’ve spent it has been considerable," he maintained. "From the period 2005 to 2008 £93 million was spent on cycling safety in one kind or another. We’ve doubled that, more than doubled that to £204 million.”
While the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme introduced in July 2010 has been a resounding hit, the rest of Mr Johnson's promised 'Cycling Revolution' has, say critics, failed to materialise.
With 16 cyclists killed on the capital's roads last year and three already during 2012, his transport policies and safety record have been under attack from cycle campaigners and opposition politicians alike who accuse him of encouraging more Londoners to get on their bikes without providing the necessary safett improvements in the capital's roads.
The issue of cycle safety has become one of the key points of focus in the mayoral campaign, and as we reported earlier this week a group of cyclists have united under the banner Londoners On Bikes to put pressure on mayoral candidates to put cycling - and the safety of cyclists - at the heart of their electoral pledges.
Following the 'die-in' which saw cyclists don skull masks and lie down on the pavement outside City Hall, Ms Jones commented: “The quantity of needless cyclist deaths and injuries on London’s streets is tragic and infuriating.
“London’s congestion is the worst in Europe and our capital badly needs a real vision for transport that protects all road users' safety, urgently addresses the need to make junctions safer and reduces death and injury on our streets.”
Ms Jones was not the only local politician attending the 'die-in,' Liberal Democrat councillor Graham Neale was also there and the group behind the event, Stop Murder Of Cyclists in Southwark (SMOC), is led by ex-councillor Donnachadh McCarthy.
SMOC is calling for a third of Southwark's transport budget to be given over to cycling infrastructure, the borough's nine worst junctions to be redesigned, and for segregated cycle lanes to be put in place on all TfL-managed roads in the borough within five years.
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.