Mayor of London Boris Johnson has won over an unlikely fan due to his perseverance in overcoming opposition to his plans to transform cycling in the capital – Baroness Jenny Jones.
The Green Party politician has crossed swords regularly with the Conservative mayor over cycle safety during the past seven and a half years, but says his commitment to cycling had “made me admire him for the first time ever.”
She has expressed concern to road.cc, however, that whoever succeeds Mr Johnson as mayor next year will not have the same strength of purpose when it comes to facing down criticism and putting plans into reality.
At Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall yesterday, Mr Johnson revealed the full extent of opposition to schemes such as the East-West Cycle Superhighway, some of it coming from the highest echelons of government.
In response to a question from Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross, the mayor said: “The Cycle Superhighways, the Quietways, Santander Cycle Hire, the Mini-Hollands, Better Junctions, developing the next phase of the Safer Lorries Scheme, all those things, they are going gangbusters at the moment.
Outlining the level of opposition to some of those plans, he continued: “To be honest, this whole Cycle Revolution, which is really under way, is provoking the most incredible backlash, I’ve got to be honest with you.
“I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done that’s provoked such direct remonstrances from everybody. Virtually every senior government minister in one way or another has ticked me off in one way or another for the Cycle Superhighways.
“And every time they do, I get prouder and prouder of what we’re doing, it’s the right way forward for our great city.”
Mr Johnson, who steps down in May after two terms in office, went on: “There may come a time, folks, when I’m no longer here to keep this all going.”
Those words elicited expressions of disappointment from the Assembly Members – gently teasing perhaps, in some cases – which quickly dissolved into laughter.
He added that he hoped the Assembly would maintain the momentum and hold his successor as mayor next May– likely to be the Conservative candidate, Zak Goldsmith, or Labour’s Sadiq Khan – to carrying on with the work.
Baroness Jones, who confirmed in June she would not be seeking re-election to the London Assembly next May, tweeted from City Hall: “Boris' comments on continuing with his #cycling schemes despite widespread criticism have made me admire him for the 1st time ever.”
Although their sometimes fiery exchanges at City Hall will soon be a thing of the past, there’s every chance of the pair bumping into each other in the corridors of power further upriver at the Palace of Westminster.
In May this year, Mr Johnson was elected MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, while Baroness Jones has sat in the House of Lords since November 2013, two months after she was made a life peer.
London's latest section of segregated Cycle Superhighway was formally unveiled by Mr Johnson at Vauxhall this morning, and as infrastructure goes is a million miles away from the original routes, widely derided as little more than a strip of blue paint.
It's been a painful and traumatic process to get there - many would point out that it took the deaths of a number of cyclists for those initial plans to be changed, and consultation processes on new Cycle Superhighways, or on Mini-Holland schemes, are drawn out and often divisive.
Slowly, and with the support of Andrew Gilligan, appointed London's first Cycling Commissioner in early 2013, the capital is being transformed for cyclists and if even as vociferous an opponent as Baroness Jones is expressing admiration for what the mayor is doing, it's a sign things are moving in the right direction.
However, she stressed to road.cc that it would be down to Mr Johnson's successor as Mayor to continue to improve the city for those on two wheels.
She said: "Boris Johnson has abandoned his 'blue paint and hope for the best' approach to cycle lanes and is now producing Go Dutch, quality infrastructure.
"It took a lot of campaigning, both inside and outside of City Hall, but to our relief the Mayor has got there in the end.
"The only problem now is that Boris Johnson made such a late start to doing things properly, he will have relatively little of his cycling revolution actually finished by the time he leaves office.
"It will be down to the next Mayor to keep the momentum going and many of us fear that they will lack Boris Johnson’s born-again vigour in taking on the limo-riding critics of safer cycling schemes,” she added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.