UPDATED: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's office say it is "complete nonsense that the capital's cycling budget risks being cut - although he acknowledged this morning that the amount of money allocated to it in the coming years can only be determined once Transport for London (TfL) publishes its new business plan later this year, leading one London Assembly member to warn that “cycle spending could fall off a cliff.”
The Labour politician, who replaced Boris Johnson in May this year, was responding to a question from the Green Party’s Caroline Russell at this morning’s Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall.
Ms Russell, elected to the London Assembly in May and an Islington councillor, asked Mr Khan: “Will you keep your cycling funding at £155 million throughout your time as Mayor?”
Mr Khan, who ahead of the mayoral elections this year said he supported the London Cycling Campaign’s Sign for Cycling pledges, replied: “Rather than speculating on research, let’s see what the business proposal due to come out soon says about how much we should spend.”
The Green Party assembly member also urged the mayor to roll out Cycle Superhighways to unlock cycling potential there, but Mr Khan said it would be wrong for TfL to put “all their eggs in one basket.”
The exchange followed the publication last week of a report by the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee which warned that TfL’s finances faced a crisis as a result of government funding being withdrawn earlier than anticipated, leaving a hole of £2.8 billion.
It also said that Mr Khan’s fares freeze would cost TfL £640 million over four years, while £30 million each year would be lost through the bus hopper ticket introduced this month.
Ms Russell pointed out to the mayor that encouraging cycling would help TfL save money, saying: “Your fares freeze will save the average household around £200 a year, but every new London cyclist could save £800 a year. Many thousands of Londoners won’t feel confident in taking up cycling.”
Following the session, she warned that funding for cycling “could fall of a cliff.”
She said: “I am very disappointed that the Mayor refused to rule out cycling budget cuts today.
“During his election campaign he pledged to increase the proportion of TfL funding for cycling, his fares freeze and other pressures mean the overall pot for transport investment is going to shrink.
“That means cycle spending could fall off a cliff even if he meets his campaign pledge.”
“We need the mayor to increase the cycling budget significantly and show he is dedicated to building more cycle routes so that a greater range of people can start to cycle.
“London needs more cycling to clean up our polluted air, reduce traffic and take pressure off other forms of transport.
“The superhighways that have been built so far have been phenomenally successful. So many more Londoners feel confident about cycling since they’ve been built.
“Londoners who cycle, or who want to cycle, will be concerned that the Mayor refused to rule out budget cuts when I questioned him today.
“I will be urging him to think again as he draws up his transport plans,” she added.
The mayor's office rejected the claims, however, telling road.cc: "This is complete nonsense. Sadiq has made it very clear that he will increase the proportion of TfL funding spent on cycling, and more details will be outlined soon in the forthcoming business plan.”
"Sadiq wants to make London a byword for cycling, In the last few weeks, Sadiq has given his support for progressing with major cycling schemes, including Cycle Superhighway 11 and the new North-South Cycle Superhighway. Sadiq will work closely with his new Walking and Cycling Commissioner to ensure he is the most pro-cycling Mayor yet."
Unveiling the Budget and Performance Committee’s report last week, its chairman, Gareth Bacon, said: “Major capital investment in the transport network is needed to keep London moving as its population continues to grow.
“But the funding to support this investment is now at risk. Government funding will be cut to zero faster than TfL had previously expected. And the Mayor’s fares freeze will put another dent in TfL’s finances.
“Will TfL be able to deliver the Mayor’s transport priorities? What we heard in this investigation hasn’t exactly filled us with confidence.”
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.