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Andrew Gilligan: detractors of cycling programme will be embarrassed once they see benefits

London's cycling commissioner responds to opponents of London's cycling schemes, which he says will benefit everyone...

London's cycling commissioner says cycling scheme critics should rightly be embarrassed once they see the schemes which, he says, will benefit everyone.

Andrew Gilligan made the comments at this morning's opening of the North-South cycle superhighway in central London, in response to recent local opposition the Mini Holland projects in Waltham Forest and Enfield, from a vocal minority concerned about the schemes' impact on businesses.

He also commented on recent negative media reporting of cycling, saying "crap freelance journalists" using an attack on cycling as click bait is "inevitable".

 - Video: First look at London's North-South Cycle Superhighway

Of resistance to London's cycling investment programme Gilligan said: "You always get this when there's any kind of scheme to take away traffic: people say they'll lose business and they absolutely never do, all the evidence shows the exact opposite."

"I've said in Waltham Forest I think people will be embarrassed they ever opposed [the Mini Holland]. You go to Walthamstow Village and see what it's like now, and I think anyone who opposed that should be embarrassed, and you'll see that in Enfield as well."

 - Pro-car protesters crash Walthamstow's mini-Holland launch

Enfield's Mini Holland scheme has faced vocal opposition from local shopkeepers concerned at the effect of the scheme, including improving the A105 from Palmers Green to Enfield Town, on businesses.

He said: "I keep saying to people in Palmers Green are you really satisfied with what it looks like? Are you really saying it's capable of no improvement? Do you really want to turn down a £30m cheque to revive what is not an absolutely ideal town centre?"

"In Enfield they assume everyone comes to the shops by car and that's not even true now, let alone in the future: 52% of all journeys to Enfield town centre are currently made by public transport, bike or walking."

 - Controversial Enfield "Mini Holland" cycling plans revealed

He referenced a scheme in Herne Hill to remove traffic from a road beside the rail station, which faced significant opposition at the time, and has since become popular with local people.

He said: "You go on the website of the Herne Hill Society now and it says 'we can't understand why so many people opposed it!'

"It's about exercising the political leadership to overcome what is a very short term resistance and then in a year's time everyone's forgotten why they opposed it and they love it. 

"One of the things about these schemes, and we found in the Mini Hollands, is that the people who shout loudest don't represent the majority and when you actually survey opinion you find that people actually support the scheme or don't have strong opinions either way.

Responding to anti-cycling comments made by columnist Angela Epstein this week on BBC Radio 4 and in the Telegraph, he said: "Any piece attacking cycling is guaranteed click bait and if crap freelance journalists need to make a living attacking cycling who am I to stand in their way? I can live with Angela Epstein, she's got a living to make."

On the next steps Gilligan said his legacy plan for cycling will be published in November, setting an agenda for the next mayoralty where cycling investment could be made next. As he was appointed by Boris Johnson his role is not guaranteed beyond May's elections, but he said he would like to stay on to continue the work, and has spoken to both Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, the Labour and Conservative candidates.

He said: "Obviously we can't tell our successors what to do but we can say: 'this is a few ideas, this is what we need to further the legacy'"

Gilligan said the next mayor needs to focus on the cycle superhighways programme on Transport for London roads as the "quietways" - back street routes on borough controlled roads - have been slow to implement and patchy in quality. While all of the cycle superhighway upgrades will be finished by May, with many sections of routes already complete, the first of the quietway routes, from Greenwich to Waterloo, won't be completed until February.


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