British Cycling policy advisor and former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Chris Boardman has landed a series of piledriver punches on opponents of London's planned east-west and north-south cycle superhighways, nicknamed 'Crossrail for bikes'.
Writing today in the Guardian, Boardman hit out at the organisations that have been anonymously briefing against the new cycleways, the Canary Wharf Group, and by the City of London Corporation.
Boardman writes: "A PR company employed by the [Canary Wharf Group] has distributed a briefing which the scheme’s supporters say contains numerous misrepresentations and errors of fact. Another business lobbyist funded by Canary Wharf has toured the party conferences claiming, wrongly, that the superhighways will delay traffic in London by 6%."
These claims have been reported by journalists for The Evening Standard, politics.co.uk and the Guardian itself. In all cases those opposing the plans have been allowed to remain anonymous, a protection traditionally afforded to those whose life or livelihood is would be threatened if their identity were revealed, clearly not the case here.
Boardman believes there's a very simple reason why those opposing the new cycleways won't identify themselves.
"These opponents … know that the majority even of business opinion is not with them and they stand little chance of winning any debate held in the open. They know that they will be seen as old men in limos. … They are trying to poison the project in secret without leaving any fingerprints."
Turning to the Square Mile, Boardman writes: "The Corporation attacks the scheme as “heavily biased towards cycling”.
"That feels a little like opposing Crossrail on the grounds that it is heavily biased towards trains – but it’s wrong anyway. It is not just cyclists who will benefit from the new routes.
"The superhighway will be able to carry 3,000 people an hour. That is the equivalent of putting 10 extra trains an hour on the District and Circle Tube lines running beneath the route, at a fraction of the cost in capital works and disruption. It is the equivalent of running 41 extra buses an hour, at a fraction of the cost in roadspace and emissions."
That's a staggering capacity, and shows just how much cycling can improve the carrying capacity of Britain's streets. Giving over more space to cycling and taking it away from cars has been demonstrated to improve quality of life, increase turnover for local businesses and even speed up car traffic.
As Boardman writes: "Everywhere else this has been tried – London is way behind many other world cities – it has made the streets more pleasant for everyone, and more profitable places to do business. Cycling is a catalyst to change our country for the better."
Boardman saves his final punch for the way opponents of the proposed cycleways believe they can still run things from the shadows.
He writes: "The limo-users’ view of how London is governed, like their view of how London travels around, feels out of date. Deals behind the scenes were how it was done when the city was run by Whitehall. But under an elected mayor, the public should decide and the debates should be held in public."
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.