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Is Boris back-pedalling on London's cycling revolution?

CPRE report accuses London Mayor of lacking ambition for cycling in the capital

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has accused London Mayor Boris Johnson of lacking ambition for the Capital’s cycling revolution, suggesting his strategy is fundamentally flawed.

A CPRE report – Backpedalling London’s cycling revolution? – says the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is anticipating a slow down in the growth of cycling, and calls for the Strategy to be revised if we are to improve quality of life in the capital and reduce pressure on the countryside.

Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner for CPRE, said: “The target to increase cycling in London from two to five per cent of all trips by 2026 is as lacking in ambition as it is flawed.

“Transport for London assumes that it is not feasible to cycle for journeys of more than five miles. Yet its own surveys of busy routes show that average cycle commuter journeys are already seven miles long today. London’s strategy was designed by pen pushers rather than pedal pushers.”

The report calls for a fundamental change in the way cycling is planned for. It says London should be as ambitious as cities like Berlin and Munich, which are rapidly catching up with established cycling cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

It says much more effort is needed to increase cycling in outer London, where cycling levels are much lower than they were in 1990, but no funding has been identified to do this. Instead the Mayor’s Transport Strategy has suggested removing strict planning presumptions against road and car parking expansion.

Rather than increasing motor traffic and tarmacing over green spaces in and around London, CPRE wants to encourage people to reconnect with them. Increasing cycling to and through the countryside is part of CPRE’s 2026 Vision for the Countryside.

Ralph Smyth continued: “Shifting just three per cent of trips to cycling, which the Mayor claims is very ambitious, would have limited benefits for congestion, health and climate change. With London’s population growing, we need to make more efficient use of available land if we are to avoid building new homes, roads and parking spaces on the Green Belt and other green spaces. Boris Johnson is well known as an enthusiastic cyclist, so we urge him to shift up a gear in his aspirations – at the moment he is in danger of freewheeling if not backpedalling.”

The London Cycling Campaign agrees with Ralph Smyth’s conclusions. The LCC’s Mike Cavenett said, “Our motto is one in five by 2025, so we’re aiming for a 20% shift, which makes the Mayor’s 3-5% look very unambitious. When you look at air pollution, public health and emission levels in London it’s clear we need to take decisive action. It’s a shame that ambitious and visionary talk seems to fade away when it comes to implementation.

“It’s a cultural thing as much as anything else – cycling is just not engrained in the London development psyche. I think changing that takes years of patiently chipping away at people’s attitudes and that’s exactly what we’re here to do.”

A TfL spokesperson said, "We are focusing on delivering a cycling revolution in London that includes the flagship Barclays Cycle Hire and Superhighways schemes, supporting biking boroughs, providing training, increasing cycle parking, tackling cycle theft and promoting mass participation at cycle events.

“That work supports the Mayor's transport and air quality policies of shifting people away from the motorcar and onto two wheels, and is why we are investing £116m on cycling in 2010/11.

“Our ultimate ambition is for London to be the best big cycling city in the world – an ambition we know a number of other big cities are envious of."

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine ( 

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hairyairey | 11 years ago

Workhard - oh indeed especially the cities that draw up cycle lanes that even a professional rider couldn't stick to. Around Peterborough it's virtually impossible to tell what is pavement and what is cycle path.

Boris is still my favourite cyclist, and just the guy to turn up if you are getting mugged -

workhard | 13 years ago

A cycling strategy designed by pen pushers not pedal pushers, well now, it isn't exactly unique to London now is it?

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