Daily Telegraph columnist, Andre Gilligan has been appointed as London' first Cycling Commissioner by his fellow Telegraph columnist, Mayor Boris Johnson and has promised to push the mayor to introduce “radically pro-bike measures”.
While being a colleague of Johnson's at the Telegraph has lead to inevitable accusations of cronyism from some there is no denying that Gilligan seems well qualified for the role and his appointment has been broadly welcomed by London's cycling bloggers - none of whom could be called uncritical when it comes to the Mayor's cycling policies.
Commenting on the appointment which has been rumoured for some time, the Mayor's office told The Scoop, which broke the news that:
“It has always been the Mayor’s intention to appoint a Cycling Commissioner. Final discussions with Andrew Gilligan are taking place regarding a part-time role but at this stage no formal appointment has been made,"
Gilligan has a long track record of calling for better cycling facilities and cycling infrastructure in London - he initiated a campaign to make cycling in the capital safer when he worked at the Evening Standard and he has been a vocal, and not totally uncritical supporter of Mayor Johnson's 'cycling revolution' - he described the first of the Mayor's cycling superhighways as "pointless" and has long advocated properly segregated routes for cyclists.
Announcing his appointment in his own blog Gilligan returned to a number of his favourite arguments: that the way for cycling to gain more investment was to stress the benefits it brings to London as a whole: "reducing air pollution and crowding on the Tube, for example".
He also believes that cycle campaigners have over-stated the safety risks of cycling in the capital and risk putting people off getting on a bike by doing so and that it was a mistake for cycling organisations like the London Cycle Campaign and Sustrans to politicise cycling at the last mayoral election.
In his blog yesterday Gilligan also explained why he felt he was right man to be London's first Cycling Commissioner - as a relatively recent convert to cycling, he started riding a bike in 2006 and is living proof of the transformational effects of cycling can on health and well being and he can also understands what puts non cyclists off taking to two wheels.
The proof of his appointment will be whether he can push the Mayor to take the radical pro- bike measures he wants to see, and certainly there should be enough money in the budget with the Mayor having committed to spend almost a billion pounds on cycling over the next decade. Ironically the biggest likely obstacle to Gilligan's success is also the Mayor - who's commitment to maintaining the smooth flow of traffic often seems to trump the needs of his cycling revolution - the ongoing row about the re-modelling of the road layout around Blackfriar's Bridge being a significant case in point.
When Mr Gilligan takes up his new role, which will be part time for two to three days a week he will step down as the Telegraphs online London editor, and will no longer blog about London or the Mayor although he will continue to write a column for the print edition of the paper.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.