Lord Lawson has claimed that cycling is “doing more damage to London than almost anything since the Blitz.” Another Tory peer, Lord Higgins, has said that the Cycle Superhighways currently being built in the capital were responsible for more traffic jams and pollution.
The remarks were made during questions put to parliamentary under-secretary of state for transaport, Lord Ahmad, about Transport for London (TfL) in the House of Lords today.
Lord Higgins asked him whether in view of the success of the conference on climate change over the weekend,” he would “have urgent discussions with Transport for London about the appalling increases in congestion and pollution caused by the introduction of bicycle lanes, which are in use in large numbers only in the peak period?
“Will he at least ensure that other traffic can use those lanes during the course of the day? In the present situation on Lower Thames Street, for example, they are likely to die from carbon monoxide or other poisoning from pollution any moment now.”
Another peer, Lord Sugar, recently took to Twitter to bemoan the fact that he had been held up in traffic while sitting in a car on Lower Thames Street – just days after he had taken delivery of a new Pinarello.
The Cycle Superhighway works, however, are minor compared to two huge civil engineering projects currently underway in the city – Crossrail, and the so-called “Supersewer.”
Lord Ahmad said he believed the members of the house would all “acknowledge the benefits of cycling across London. I stress that the Mayor of London has primary responsibility for planning in London, along with the air quality strategy.
“The introduction of cycle lanes is partly to encourage more sustainable forms of travel across the capital,” he added.
Lord Lawson, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher government from 1983-89, asked whether Lord Higgins had not been “absolutely right that what is happening now has done more damage, and is doing more damage, to London than almost anything since the Blitz?”
Some might suggest that the policies of urban planners in the decades following the devastation wrought by the Luftwaffe caused far more long-term damage than installation of the Cycle Superhighways will.
But Lord Lawson, a climate change denier who lives most of the time in France, also asked: “Is it not also hugely age discriminatory? There is a huge section of the population of a certain age, well represented in this House — I declare an interest — for whom cycling is not a practical option.”
“I suggest to my noble friend that it is never too late to start,” was Lord Ahmad’s laconic reply.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.