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London mayoral hopefuls wade in on cycling debate - and say prioritisation of motor traffic must end

Prospective Labour and Green candidates, Christian Wolmar and Caroline Russell, say more should be done to promote cycling in the capital

Prospective London Mayoral candidates have criticised current transport strategies in the capital as doing too little to improve air quality and road safety.

Christian Wolmar and Caroline Russell have separately criticised prioritisation of motor traffic over cycling and walking, as well as a lack of action on tackling the dominance of motor traffic in London.

Wolmar, who is seeking the Labour nomination for the May 2016 mayoral elections, says he wants 10% of journeys in London by bike "within a decade" and a default 20mph for the capital, and if he were elected would get more funding for cycling from scrapping 'unsustainable projects' including the £30m Garden Bridge project. 

Russell said it is "miserably normal" that people die on the streets making everyday journeys, and said people must be put before the smoothing of motor traffic flow.

On the Green party website, Caroline Russell, standing for Green Candidate for London Mayor, said: "Last week I joined a traffic stopping vigil organised by Stop Killing Cyclists to remember Esther Hartsilver, killed by a lorry while cycling to work.

"The casual acceptance of a certain amount of death and serious injury on our streets would not be tolerated if it was happening on the railways. But on our roads which are 'meant' for cars and lorries it is miserably normal that people die while cycling to work or crossing the road, while popping out for a pint of milk."

She said this is down to choices made in the way the city is run, and that "people must be put before vehicles on our streets".

She said: "London is the most innovative city in the world. Our dynamic economy should turn its focus to the challenge of delivering a socially just transformation in housing, cleaner air and safer, greener less traffic dominated streets."

Wolmar writes in BikeBiz though London is beginning to accept cycling as a viable means of transport, more can be done, to the benefit of everyone, including by slowing down traffic and "making motorists drive more carefully".

"For the most part, cycling is seen as part of the solution rather than treated with pariah status as it used to be. However, there is still a long way to go before London can be considered as a genuine cycling city on a par with many of its counterparts on the Continent," he says.

"The next mayor of London has to build on these foundations."

He criticised token gestures like bike lanes of a few feet or "ridiculously convoluted attempts to get cyclists through junctions without disturbing the traffic, paths with ‘cyclists dismount’ in the middle".

He mooted a rebranding of the cycle superhighways, while agreeing with the principal of on-road segregated cycle routes.

"I am a bit wary of the very notion of cycling superhighways as they seem to liken cycling to a kind of fast, lycra clad activity which is not the way forward to ensure that it becomes a far more popular mode of travel used by grannies and kiddies alike. Instead, we need a network of good cycling routes," he said.

Wolmar said while quietways - back street routes - are needed, the stress on main roads is important because cyclists want to use the quickest route, like anyone else. He said the cycle hire scheme should be cheaper, and a 20mph zone would be enforced, something which, he says, is "technically possible at a small cost".

He says there is no reason cycling rates in London couldn't reach 10% of journeys within a decade.

"There is already a considerable budget earmarked for cycling, but if there is a need for more money, then there are funds currently earmarked for the £1bn Silvertown Tunnel which would become available since I would scrap that unsustainable project – and there is a further £30m available that would be withdrawn from the iniquitous Garden Bridge project," he said.

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