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Funding cuts and uncertainty over cycling commissioner role raise concerns

With less than four months to go until the London Mayoral elections, it is unclear whether Boris Johnson’s successor as mayor will have the drive, the support – or indeed the budget – to follow through current plans for cycling infrastructure in the capital.

Concerns have also been raised over whether whoever takes office in May – likely to be either fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith, or Labour’s Sadiq Khan – will continue to have a cycling commissioner, a position created by Mr Johnson when he appointed Andrew Gilligan to it in 2013.

Last week, the website Mayorwatch described that appointment as “one of the wisest decisions” of Johnson’s mayoralty and urged his successor to retain Mr Gilligan in the role.

“Boris’s reputation as ‘the cycling mayor’ means the plaudits and praise for improving cycle safety inevitably head his way,” it said.

“But much of the heavy lifting, such as sitting through public consultation sessions and meetings with local council planners, as well as pouring over the fine detail of TfL’s plans, has been done by Gilligan.

“Those who thought he would ultimately prove to be a mere figurehead for City Hall’s cycling aspirations have been proven wrong.”

The website warned that his departure from the position of cycling commissioner “could prove disastrous.”

It added: “Not everyone within TfL has been fully won over to the need to spend so much public cash supporting an activity which raises no revenue, and with the organisation facing a huge funding cut there’s a risk some will use the change of mayoralty to argue for lower or slower spending on cycling.

“The safety of cyclists is simply too important to gamble with which is why both Sadiq and Zac must commit to keeping Gilligan in post should they win in May,” it added.

Last week Gilligan, who has played a hands-on role in turning the mayor’s vision for cycling in the capital into reality, told the London Assembly’s transport committee that he is preparing a report that will outline further work to be done, reports the news website London SE1.

He said: "The legacy plan I'm producing is going to suggest where new superhighways should be constructed.

"There are some very obvious gaps in the network being constructed at the moment.

"For instance there is a route that goes from Elephant & Castle up St George's Road and then turns right into Lambeth Road to go up Blackfriars Road [via] St George's Circus.

"We have also just finished consulting on a new scheme at Westminster Bridge roundabout and then just north of Westminster Bridge of course is the East-West Superhighway.

"In between that there is about a third of a mile of road – Westminster Bridge Road past the old MI5 building and Lambeth North tube station – which hasn't got any kind of segregation.

"That's a very obvious gap to fill. That will be one of the things I'm suggesting. There are others."

Johnson’s final mayoral budget is currently under consideration at City Hall, and the key findings of a report published yesterday by the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee are:

the Mayor intends to cut Band D council tax by £19 in 2016-17, meaning his successor will have around £50 million less to spend in their first year

cuts to TfL’s government grant have led to uncertainty about its investment programme

the way the Mayor is investing in affordable housing is changing, which may have consequences for the number of affordable homes built over the 2015 to 2018 programme.

Labour’s John Biggs, who chairs the committee, said: “On 5 May, millions of Londoners will take to the ballot box and send a new Mayor to City Hall – with a mandate to fulfil the spending promises they will make to voters on the campaign trail.

“The current Mayor should leave his successor with sufficient freedom to get on with delivering what they promise.

“His proposal to cut council tax by £19, for example, means there will be around £50 million less to spend on London’s priorities in 2016-17,” he added.

In November Green Party assembly member Jenny Jones, who also leaves City Hall in May, said that the mayor's perseverance in seeing through cycling schemes, often in the face of powerful and vociferous opposition, had won her over to him.

But she told road.cc that his successor must carry on improving conditions for cyclists in London.

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.

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.