With the London mayoral elections exactly one month away, Sustrans has accused Boris Johnson of being “intent on bringing the capital to a standstill” following publication of the transport manifesto by the mayor, who is seeking re-election. The charity described Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, on the other hand, as “committed to providing transport for all.”
Opinion polls suggest that the poll on 3 May will be a very close-run affair between Mr Johnson and his predecessor as Mayor of London Mr Livingstone battling it out over the coming weeks to become Mayor of Lodnon for the next four years.
In recent months, Mr Johnson has been criticised by opposition politicians and cycle campaigners alike for his determination to prioritise smooth traffic flow above all else when it comes to transport policy.
His transport manifesto, announced last week – a copy is attached at the end of this article – devotes a page and a half to cycling. There’s nothing in it that is actually new, with the document reiterating initiatives that have already been put in place or that have previously been announced.
That’s perhaps unsurprising given that Mr Johnson is after all the present mayor and has been responsible for formulating London’s transport policy over the past four years.
However, the election campaign, in which cycling and the safety of cyclists in particular has emerged as one of the key issues, did give him a chance perhaps to acknowledge areas where he had got it wrong and head off criticisms from his opponents. It’s an opportunity he has failed to seize.
Instead, the document outlines issues such as the planned expansion outside the centre of the capital of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, the trebling to 12 of the number of Barclays Cycle Superhighways, and the previously announced review of 500 junctions by Transport for London and London cycling festival which debuts in summer 2013.
According to Carl Pittam, London director for Sustrans, motor vehicles continue to dominate his thinking when it comes to the transport policy set out in Mr Johnson’s manifesto.
"Boris Johnson claims he has a vision for transport, but it appears he is somewhat short-sighted,” Mr Pittam commented.
“His proposals put the car right back at the heart of transport policy, yet nearly half of Londoners don't have access to a car. Expanding roads, ruling out congestion charge expansion and putting up fares will only see more traffic on our roads.
"For all Boris's talk of getting more of us on our bikes there is not a single commitment to additional funding for cycling or walking. It seems that Boris is intent on bringing the capital to a standstill."
Mr Livingstone’s manifesto – again, you will find a copy at the end of the article – pledges to cut fares on London Transport and perhaps in acknowledgment of his past perception as being an ‘enemy’ of the motorist, he has also promised not to increase the Congestion Charge, nor will he seek to reintroduce the Western extension to the Congestion Charge Zone.
In terms of cycling, Mr Livingstone says that his key priority is to improve the safety of cyclists, with 16 killed on the capital’s streets in 2011 and a further four already in the opening three months of this year.
That include focusing on safety at junctions and on the Barclays Cycle Superhighways in general, as well as providing "safe routes" to town centres in Outer London and introducing “a consistent cycle network across London,” with Mr Livingstone pledging his support to the London Cycle Campaign’s ‘Love London, Go Dutch’ campaign.
"Ken Livingstone sees that Londoners want a choice in how they get around and is committed to providing transport for all - unlike Boris Johnson whose focus leaves out the millions Londoners who don't own a car,” said Mr Pittam.
"Many people in London's suburbs want safer routes get around by bike so it's great that Ken has promised to invest in traffic-free greenways.
"London's streets would be safer for everyone with a 20 miles per hour speed limit on residential streets – whoever wins the election must strive to make this the norm," he added.
The Green Party’s candidate Jenny Jones is due to publish her manifesto on 12 April, but speaking last week after Mr Johnson launched his transport manifesto, she maintained that "London needs a new vision for transport.”
Ms Jones continued: "Scores of deaths and injuries to cyclists, one of the worst congestion problems in Europe, an air pollution problem that leads to thousands of early deaths, creaking public transport infrastructure and fares that price Londoners off the tube.
"It is no longer acceptable for us to put our fingers in our ears and pretend everything is going to be ok with London's transport," she insisted.
"Instead of wasting tens of millions every year in extra subsidy for a New Bus for London, as Mayor I would focus on lowering fares and making the roads safer.
"And instead of wasting hundreds of millions on new roads and capacity expansion, I would focus on improving the alternatives to driving and dealing with air pollution," she added.
Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick has yet to launch his transport manifesto, but commenting on Mr Johnson’s proposals, Caroline Pidgeon, the party’s leader in the Greater London Assembly, said: “There needs to be a reality check with every statement issued by Boris Johnson.
“Four years ago he promised Londoners that the Tube would run for longer at the weekends, that he would end exorbitant train prices and ensure that the bike hire scheme cost nothing to the taxpayer. He even promised to work hard to negotiate a no strike deal with the Tube unions.
“On all these issues the Mayor’s past promises have been broken. Boris Johnson should be judged on his 2008 transport manifesto, not the latest set of false promises he is making to Londoners,” she concluded.
Sustrans has said that it will provide further comment on Ms Jones' and Mr Paddick's transport manifestos once they have been published.
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.