London Mayoral Hustings - main candidates come together to talk cycling

Insults, promises, and a mayoral rant as candidates go head to head to win over London's cycling vote ahead of mayoral election

by Sarah Barth   April 30, 2012  

London cyclist approaching junction.jpg

With only three days to go until the London Mayoral elections, and cycling the hottest topic this year, the five main candidates attended a hustings today to discuss the issue.

Jointly hosted by The Times and Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity in Westminster, the rivals went head to head on the eight points of The Times's Cities Fit For Cycling manifesto.

During the debate, the candidates took questions from Sustrans and The Times, followed by comments from around 200 members of the public who attended the event, as well as questions received via Twitter under the #cyclesafe hashtag.

The mayor is also chairman of Transport for London, appoints its board, and formulates the city's transport policy, so cycling will be at the heart of policy-making for whichever candidate wins on Thursday.

All five London Mayoral candidates might have been at the same venue for the first time, but it was nevertheless a Boris and Ken show as incumbent mayor Boris Johnson and Labour candidate former Mayor Ken Livingstone traded verbal blows about the state of cycling in the capital.

Livingstone earned a big cheer from the crowd when he said, "You can't make London safer for cyclists if you've got fares so high that it is cheaper to get in your car."

BMr Johnson, who signed up to the LCC Love London, Go Dutch Campaign last week, pledged to “put in more cycle superhighways” saying there was “a huge opportunity to expand those". A returning Johnson administration would also review roundabouts, put Trixi mirrors along superhighways, and put in 68,000 Sheffield stands for bikes. "I can't guarantee this will all be done within two years, but it will be well on the way," said Mayor Johnson.

However, he was heckled when he went on to say that the number of cyclist fatalities had gone down in the last four years. Mr Johnson "humbly and respectfully" insisted that the TfL figures have fallen in the past four years as a proportion of cycling journeys taken. But said that was "no cause for complacency".

Cyclists have to "understand the dangers they are in," added the mayor. "It does I'm afraid mean some sometimes expensive interventions. You can't do these things with no cash. I cannot see how a Labour programme that involves cutting transport investment can deliver those improvements."

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has also backed the LCC Go Dutch campaign, said his administration would immediately, “reinstate on the first day the order of priorities to make cyclists and pedestrians number one for Transport for London." Mr Livingstone added he would reinstate the London Cycle Network that was "so rudely interrupted four years ago" to bring cycling to all boroughs and would give cyclists priority at left-turns at junctions. He added that he planned to appoint Green Party candidate Jenny Jones to take charge of cycling within Transport For London.

Asked by The Times editor James Harding why he hadn't done more for cycling the last time he was mayor, Mr Livingstone said the whole focus of his mayorship was to get people "out of their cars". He claimed he had doubled cycling as a proportion of journeys taken in London and got a lot of boroughs, even the "recalcitrant ones" on board, "mainly Conservative ones, who wanted no interruption to people's right to drive whenever they want".

Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate, called for “more safety measures on lorries,” and the implementation of “20mph limits in busy areas. I will start implementing those in the first year". Mr Paddick, who has previously told The Times’ Kaya Burgess he doesn’t ride in London because he doesn’t feel safe, added that he would put pressure on local authorities to review their own roads too and review junctions along London’s cycle superhighways.

Independent candidate Siobhan Benita travelled to the hustings in an HGV with a full set of safety mirrors and pulled a Brompton out of the cab. She would make improving conditions for cyclists “a priority," she said, adding that there was little provision for cyclists outside the city centre. Ms Benita promised a "complete, relentless focus" on junctions, putting in physically separated routes where possible and, where not possible, coming up with "creative ideas".

Green Party candidate Jenny Jones had a simple solution for London’s cycling problems: “Reduce the traffic and slow it down." She added that police should help enforce the law on the roads, for example, making sure advanced stop lines were enforced for the people who need to use them. She said it is "embarrassing" to talk about London to Green candidates from Europe.

Ms Jones called for a change in legal priorities on the road. “Motorists have to take responsibility. If you knock a cyclist over, it's your fault,” she said to loud applause.

As the hustings wound down to its conclusion with the professional politicians trading insults proceedings were galvanised once more by a series of what seemed to be spectacularly misjudged comments from Boris Johnson. In response to heckling in the room the Mayor embarked on one what observer described as "a meltdown rant" during which he told the audience that "Irresponsible cycling can kill pedestrians." and that "We should all deprecate irresponsible cycling." The mayor went on to praise his administration's spending on Cycle Superhighways before concluding to jeers from the crows "I may not conform to your stereotypical image of a cyclist. I do not have whippet-thin brown legs or dreadlocks or jump red lights."

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

He doesn't jump red lights? Really? Was he not photographed by a daily newspaper doing just that?

I have no doubt BJ is a keen cyclist - I know this for a fact - but he just doesn't "get" how most potential riders feel about the idea of taking to London's roads. And where did that crap about irresponsible cyclists killing pedestrians? Certainly not from any official statistic.

It also makes me worry about the LCC "Go Dutch" campaign, if BJ honestly thinks he can sign up to it.

posted by Paul M [325 posts]
30th April 2012 - 15:40

0 Likes

A cyclist in London did kill a pedestrian a few years back. It'd be interesting if data was produced on how many pedestrians cause accidents by stepping out without looking in front of cyclists - had a few incidents of that myself both of foreigners looking the wrong way and dullards using cellphones or personal stereos - lucky that my brakes work ok.

But back to the election, as a Labour voter (and even member in the past) I can't stomach voting for Livingstone (who is well past his sell by date) or Johnstone. That means I'll probably waste my vote on Paddick, Jones or Benita - can't make up my mind which is the least worst option.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
30th April 2012 - 16:04

1 Like

Livingstone's plan to reduce fairs just doesn't ring true, the tube and London buses are run on subsidies. Any fare decrease is going to require a massive input of cash.

Take the buses and cabs out of bus lanes and paint them cycle lane blue.

posted by musicalmarc [60 posts]
30th April 2012 - 16:15

0 Likes

Boris Johnson once got me to show him the way somewhere when he was cycling (because he knows me a little bit and knows I know where I'm going). I can confirm that he does jump red lights. He went through at least one and then had to stop and wait for me because I stopped and I was the only one who knew the way.

Invisible
http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [20 posts]
30th April 2012 - 17:28

0 Likes

Between 2008 and 2010 in Great Britain, collisions with cyclists killed six pedestrians. That's 0.08 per cent of road fatalities. Technically, yes - a cyclist can kill a pedestrian. In practice, as I point out in this blogpost - http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/minister-who-made-invi... - it's a bit strange to go on about the dangers posed by the source of 0.08 per cent of road deaths, as opposed to the source of 99.92 per cent of them (motor vehicles).

Invisible.

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [20 posts]
30th April 2012 - 17:32

0 Likes

Let's not forget that Ken was already over in Paris looking at the Velib scheme long before Boris got elected and he had already phased the traffic signals away from 'car is king' mode.

Plus he realised that bringing the Tour de France over would help boost cycling in general along with the Hovis London Freewheel (now known as the skyride).

Although I'm sure Boris jumping red lights on his first day at work as well as riding on the pavement wasn't a cheap ploy by Boris to prove he was one of the lads.

MBC
http://www.mybikecodes.co.uk

Sent from my Nokia Brick

posted by Bike Codes [2 posts]
30th April 2012 - 18:48

1 Like

Honestly, my impression of Boris from seeing him at the hustings today was of a man who didn't want to be there and didn't care who knew it. He was obviously irritated at having to sit next to Ken (even tapping his pen rhythmically against the microphone at one point while Ken was talking) and is clearly bored of talking about cycling.

He could barely be bothered to give lip service to the dangers we as cyclists face in London every day, and seems to think that the flawed superhighways are a decent concession.

Well, sorry Boris. Mary Bowers, the journalist whose horrendous accident sparked the Times campaign, is a friend of mine, and it's not good enough. I waved her off on her bike the night before it happened and the next morning I watched helplessly as she cycled off a superhighway and under a truck, for no reason at all.

You've lost my vote, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Sarah Barth's picture

posted by Sarah Barth [1060 posts]
30th April 2012 - 20:17

0 Likes

OldRidgeback wrote:
A cyclist in London did kill a pedestrian a few years back. It'd be interesting if data was produced on how many pedestrians cause accidents by stepping out without looking in front of cyclists - had a few incidents of that myself both of foreigners looking the wrong way and dullards using cellphones or personal stereos - lucky that my brakes work ok.

But back to the election, as a Labour voter (and even member in the past) I can't stomach voting for Livingstone (who is well past his sell by date) or Johnstone. That means I'll probably waste my vote on Paddick, Jones or Benita - can't make up my mind which is the least worst option.

I'll 'waste' my vote on Jones if you do. Deal? Let's get more people wasting their vote and get her in.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
1st May 2012 - 9:43

1 Like

Coleman wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:
A cyclist in London did kill a pedestrian a few years back. It'd be interesting if data was produced on how many pedestrians cause accidents by stepping out without looking in front of cyclists - had a few incidents of that myself both of foreigners looking the wrong way and dullards using cellphones or personal stereos - lucky that my brakes work ok.

But back to the election, as a Labour voter (and even member in the past) I can't stomach voting for Livingstone (who is well past his sell by date) or Johnstone. That means I'll probably waste my vote on Paddick, Jones or Benita - can't make up my mind which is the least worst option.

I'll 'waste' my vote on Jones if you do. Deal? Let's get more people wasting their vote and get her in.

It's possible I will. She did make some good points and is one of the less unconvincing candidates. Truth be told, I'm not impressed by any of the candidates fielded by the main parties.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
1st May 2012 - 10:24

0 Likes

I honestly believe that Boris is a better option for cyclists in London than Ken.

Ken will pay lip-service to anything that he thinks will get him in (if not lying outright) before returning to his own corrupt personal politics. If he gets back in it will be a disaster for London as a whole.

Boris on the other hand does what he believes is best for London. He is a keen cyclist and potentially a very powerful ally. The problem is that at the moment his belief is incorrect - he falls for the vehicular cycling myth which is popular amongst strong, confident cyclists such as him.

What we need to do is educate him and change his mind, rather than vilifying him in the way that a large number of (often left-leaning) cyclists often do. If we can do that then I can truly see him presiding over a cycling revolution.

posted by Mr Will [91 posts]
1st May 2012 - 10:50

1 Like

Mr Will wrote:
I honestly believe that Boris is a better option for cyclists in London than Ken.

Ken will pay lip-service to anything that he thinks will get him in (if not lying outright) before returning to his own corrupt personal politics. If he gets back in it will be a disaster for London as a whole.

Boris on the other hand does what he believes is best for London. He is a keen cyclist and potentially a very powerful ally. The problem is that at the moment his belief is incorrect - he falls for the vehicular cycling myth which is popular amongst strong, confident cyclists such as him.

What we need to do is educate him and change his mind, rather than vilifying him in the way that a large number of (often left-leaning) cyclists often do. If we can do that then I can truly see him presiding over a cycling revolution.

Are 'left leaning cyclists' those with poor balance?

I really don't like creepy Ken. The fact that Boris is a cyclist means nothing for London. Blue paint and hire bikes? It's a start but he showed his real colours when talking about dangerous junctions. He doesn't want any changes that could affect the smooth flow of motorised traffic.

What is the vehicular cycling myth? My dad taught me to ride on the road. I'm still doing it almost four decades later. (My dad's still riding on the road too.) Bikes are traffic. On my commute in the rush hour they are often the fastest elements in traffic.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
1st May 2012 - 13:55

1 Like

I've just posted some thoughts on how cyclists should vote here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/thoughts-on-electoral-...

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [20 posts]
2nd May 2012 - 22:50

1 Like

The reality is there simply isn't the money or the political will to spend 10's or 100's £m on cycling infrastructure.

Far better would be a presumption of guilt for drivers in accidents with cyclists which would make them think and look twice - we need a change in driver behaviour and awareness. Putting up barriers and segregated cycle lanes will make drivers even more complacent and have the opposite effect.

Kensington & Chelsea have realised this and have removed lots of street furniture - railings, traffic islands and white lines etc - this causes drivers to slow down and take care.

Punish the transgressors meaningfully - driving offences which actually cause injury need to be treated more like GBH or attempted murder.

...and Ridgeback if the pedestrians are getting your way get yourself a Hornit horn - it's transformed my commute. Big Grin

Artifice

posted by artifice [1 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 12:02

0 Likes