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OPINION

London Mayoral election: Why a vote for Susan Hall is a vote against cycling

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The Conservative candidate has pledged to scrap the ULEZ expansion and rip out protected cycle lanes – in this opinion piece, long-time road.cc contributor and London resident Simon MacMichael tells us why he thinks cyclists should steer clear tomorrow

A vote for the Conservative candidate Susan Hall in tomorrow’s London Mayoral election would be a vote against active travel including cycling, threatening to undo more than two decades of efforts to make the capital safer and easier to navigate for those of us who choose to get around its streets by bike, as well as reversing progress made in improving road safety and tackling air pollution that benefit all who live and work in the city.

Pledging to reverse the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) on her first day in office if elected (but without revealing how she intends to make up the multi-million pound shortfall in revenue that would result), Hall has also said that she will scrap segregated cycle lanes which she claims wreak “havoc” on the city.

Echoing the words of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the wake of what many saw as a surprise Conservative victory at last year’s Uxbridge & South Ruislip by-election following a campaign that centred on the then-imminent expansion of ULEZ to outer London, Hall has vowed to bring an end to the so-called “War on the Motorist.”

> ‘The War on the Motorist’ deconstructed — looking at the truth behind the myths

That includes doing away with 20mph speed limits on main roads, as well as promising to support “any group” that wants low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in their area to be removed – both measures that are proven to reduce road traffic casualties especially among vulnerable road users, including children.

Hammersmith Bridge (copyright Simon MacMichael).JPG

Throughout the campaign leading up to tomorrow’s election, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, seeking an unprecedented third term in office, has held a commanding lead over Hall, his closest and only realistic challenger – but the latest opinion poll reveals that it has narrowed to just 10 percentage points, the closest margin yet between the pair.

Expectations are that Khan,  will prevail, with the Evening Standard reporting that the poll by Savanta for the Centre for London puts him on 42 per cent ahead of Hall’s 32 per cent, with Lib Dem candidate Rob Blackie a distant third on 10 per cent, followed by the Green Party’s Zoe Garbett with 8 per cent of the vote.

The bookies agree. Khan is at best a 20-to-1 odds-on favourite, while the shortest price on Hall producing a shock win is 8-to-1 against.

The result, however, could be even closer than that latest poll suggests, for a variety of reasons. Many Londoners remain undecided who to vote for, while others are unaware that the election is even taking place.

Visit a city in France, Italy or Spain in the run-up to local elections and you can’t help but notice posters on every street urging you to lend a particular candidate their vote. Here, away from social networks and the established media, you’d be hard-pressed to find any sign that polling day is almost upon us.

Then there is the introduction of voter ID, anticipated to boost the Conservative vote and take support away from Labour, as is the change to the voting system to first past the post, replacing the former system which enabled voters to select a candidate as their second preference (and which in the last election, three years ago, resulted in Khan extending his margin of victory over the Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey with many Lib Dem and Green Party voters selecting the incumbent mayor as their second choice).

The 2021 result was, however, closer than the opinion polls had suggested, and a last-minute surge for of support for Hall could see a much tighter contest than most pundits would have expected even a week ago, in much the same way that the leave camp won the 2016 Brexit referendum despite consistently trailing in the polls for almost the entire campaign – and perhaps not by coincidence, just today some users of X, formerly Twitter, have noted a surge of tweets in support of Hall and against Khan.

While turnout for the pivotal 2016 vote was a record high at 72.2 per cent, historically it is much lower for Mayoral elections, at just 42.2 per cent in 2021 – so a late flurry of people deciding to vote for Hall, perhaps swayed by messaging they have seen on social media, could be influential.

Cyclists in London 1 - copyright Simon MacMichael

According to the opinion polls, Khan’s lead over Hall is strongest in Inner London, but narrower in the Outer London boroughs. In part, that is a reflection of historic Labour and Tory voting patterns, in turn determined to some extent by the demographic make-up of individual boroughs as well as factors such as income and type of housing tenure.

But with motoring and efforts to restrict unnecessary car use and promote greener alternatives identified as a “wedge issue” – one that can be used to divide voters and thereby harness support for a particular position – following the Uxbridge & South Ruislip result last summer, it won’t be lost on the candidates’ respective parties that Hall’s support is greater in the boroughs that have higher levels of car ownership.

> Whose ULEZ is it anyway? Political chicanery as clean air zone set to expand to outer London

That by-election in north-west London last year was triggered by the resignation of Boris Johnson, who during his time at City Hall from 2008 to 2016 oversaw the introduction of the city’s cycle hire scheme (initially proposed by the Liberal Democrats and set in motion by Labour’s Ken Livingstone) and also launched the initial wave of Cycle Superhighways, the original lick-of-blue-paint design superseded by high-quality physically protected infrastructure following the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as the capital’s first cycling commissioner.

Johnson, who during his time as Mayor was regularly spotted riding his bike to and from appointments across London, was widely seen as a politician who ‘got’ cycling and understood how it and active travel could help transform our cities – something he would follow up on once Prime Minister, with cycling and walking put at the centre of plans to recover from the impact of the coronavirus, and councils across England invited to apply for funding for LTNs and temporary cycle lanes.

Under Khan and his active travel commissioner, Will Norman, London’s cycling infrastructure has continued to expand although perhaps not at the pace campaigners would want to see – partly due to the funding crisis at Transport for London brought about by COVID-19, although notable achievements include the completion of Cycleway 4 from Tower Bridge to Greenwich and Cycleway 9 from Olympia to Kew Bridge, and which is currently being expanded to Brentford.

That latter route would of course benefit from a protected stretch running along Kensington High Street to link with Cycleway 9 at Hyde Park, thereby creating a safe cycling route across the capital from east to west – but the Conservative-run Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has refused to allow such permanent infrastructure on the road, and a temporary cycle lane installed in late 2020 was ripped out after a matter of weeks.

> Campaigners lose High Court case against council over “premature” cycle lane removal

And other policies aside – this piece is after all focused on active travel – that’s a hint of what Londoners will get should Hall win tomorrow’s election.

Cycle lanes torn out. LTNs removed. 20mph speed limits on main roads dispensed with. The ULEZ expansion scrapped.

Some, to be sure, would find cause for celebration in all of that – but for most inhabitants of the city, it would be very much to their detriment.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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43 comments

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Hirsute | 1 month ago
3 likes

All cars to be this model and colour by 2028 now Khan has won !

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GMbmyyYWUAAN1Se?format=jpg&name=900x900)

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don simon fbpe replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
2 likes

Whereas Susan Hall has her own vision for reducing contamination.

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uberdemocrat | 1 month ago
5 likes

Thank goodness that (another) backwards step hasn't been taken. For now. The people who back the likes of Susan Hall won't be discouraged by her drubbing. They know (from 2016) that they just have to hit on the right combination of lies and circumstances to undo decades of progress.

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alexuk | 1 month ago
0 likes

Wow, pathetic name calling, basless acusations. All of your lives benefit from cars being able to move freely. Eliminating ULEZ in the outer london boroughs doesn't make her a villan or anti-cyclist. Enjoy your knife crime, garbage air, increased prices, terrible traffic and rampant anti-Semitism from your beloved labour party.

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Rendel Harris replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
11 likes

alexuk wrote:

Eliminating ULEZ in the outer london boroughs doesn't make her a villan or anti-cyclist.

Maybe it doesn't. Promising to rip out the vast majority of cycle lanes within the central London boroughs does.

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
7 likes

She repeatedly says she will scrap ULEZ on day 1 despite being told many, many times that it is not statutorily possible to do this.

Repeated lies about a non existent pay per mile scheme.

I can't find anything in her manifesto to say she will remove bike lanes apart from stopping floating bus stops which means there would be no cycle lane at that point.

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Rendel Harris replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
6 likes

Hirsute wrote:

I can't find anything in her manifesto to say she will remove bike lanes

May not be in her manifesto but she has frequently said in interviews that she will remove any cycle lane that impedes traffic flow - obviously a case could be made that the removal of any cycle lane would give more room for traffic to flow.

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
2 likes

I was surprised not to find it. I have seen her on twitter and she has banged on about Park Lane.

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Rendel Harris replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
3 likes

A good summation of her attitudes from Peter Walker here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2023/jul/20/londons-to...

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wycombewheeler replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
14 likes

"All of your lives benefit from cars being able to move freely."

do they though? I would suggest that an increase on cars being driven around "freely" doesn't benefit anyone, even drivers as congestion will go up and all those that have to drive will have their journey times extended. More capacity cannot be provided for surface transport in London, so the only way to allow for increasing journey demand is reduction in vehicle size.

No one is advocating to ban all motor vehicles such that deliveries can't be made, there is hardly any nudge against the tendancy for 2000kg of metal to be used to transport 85kg of human over short distances. And you want to remove the tiny suggestion that remains.

As to emotive comments about knife crime, it's something that doesn't even cross my mind entering London, because despite the hyperbole, London is very safe for such a large city.

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chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
6 likes

Yes. Traffic (motor traffic) is not the lifeblood of the city.

In fact the conflation of *cars* being able to move freely and a wide range of "goods" - personal mobility, economic benefits, cultural thriving, "freedom" - is actually now a blocker to improving our urban areas (and even in the way of "growth"). All those associations of course encouraged by promoters of the motor trade. And - once motor dependency started - politicians and governors.

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Dnnnnnn replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
2 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Yes. Traffic (motor traffic) is not the lifeblood of the city. In fact the conflation of *cars* being able to move freely and a wide range of "goods" - personal mobility, economic benefits, cultural thriving, "freedom" - is actually now a blocker to improving our urban areas (and even in the way of "growth")

I think there's a really interesting debate to be had on the (virtually) car-free city. It would be hard to make it work (or sell) in most existing places but - given the numbers of new homes needed now and over the next few decades - there could be a few entirely new cities planned on that basis.

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chrisonabike replied to Dnnnnnn | 1 month ago
1 like

I'm not sure most of the world is ready for that debate!  (Hopefully I'm just wrong because older and out of touch...)

However ... there are definitely (almost) entirely car free areas in cities.  And it's not just NL / the somewhat misunderstood "woonerf" idea either.  I suppose there's a continuum - we might usefully examine the Dutch use of "autoluwe" here.  Anyway - examples of deliberately planned car-deserts:

Pontevedra, Spain [1] [2] [3]

Merwede, Utrecht, NL [4] [5]

City centre, Ghent, Belgium [7]

Other examples exist ... including ... er ... Sark.  Only they have tractors rather than cars (and it's an odd place for other reasons - perhaps that's not quite the example we need).

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jaymack replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
10 likes

"Eliminating ULEZ in the outer london boroughs doesn't make her a villan or anti-cyclist" ....but it does make her look like a fully paid up member of the Flat Earth Society's politcal wing. 

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Clem Fandango replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
9 likes

"garbage air" eh?  

Another one of those life benefits from cars...something something...baseless accusation

 

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chrisonabike replied to Clem Fandango | 1 month ago
6 likes

Ah - but it's because of the cyclists taking over and the vast expansion of cycle infra* that pollution has increased** !  And ULEZ (is this right?)!  And all that random killing on the streets - that's all part of it too!  (Something something state capture ... woke liberal elite extremists ... culture war ... trapped in 15 minute cities etc.)

* Up from 90km to 360km under Sadiq apparently.  For comparison: the smaller (and much denser) Paris has "more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of facilities adapted for cyclists, including more than 300 km (186 m) of bike lanes and 52 km (32 m) of provisional lane".  Amsterdam (much smaller) has more than 515 km of excellent separate bike paths - but due to how their system "untangles" routes for different modes (e.g. see hoofdnet and plusnet) the "effectively 'for' cycling" total will be much greater.

** For a much more thoughtful - though debatable - view on "effect of cycle infra on congestion" the Invisible Visible Man has some musings.

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Clem Fandango replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
5 likes

All well & good.  But I'm more interested in what Binface has to say about croissants.  A far more level headed & credible candidate than Hall.

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chrisonabike replied to Clem Fandango | 1 month ago
4 likes

I was wondering if Binface was standing - indeed they are and the world would be a better place if Claudia Winkleman’s fringe was granted listed status.

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Hirsute replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
5 likes

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GMkWD0MWIAAurtJ?format=jpg&name=900x900)

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
4 likes

And so it begins.

I for one welcome our new multi-millenial alien overlords.

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marmotte27 replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
0 likes

trolluk

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don simon fbpe replied to alexuk | 1 month ago
0 likes

There are times when I think that these right whinger accounts are left wingers in drag, the aguments they espouse are so ridiculous, or don't stand up to scrutiny, are fantasy or just plain (hate filled) misleading lies, it's hard to take them seriously.

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brooksby | 1 month ago
11 likes

ThegRauniad wrote:

Tory hopeful for London mayor joins anti-Ulez Facebook group rife with Islamophobia

Susan Hall became member a day after an exposé about its contents – much of which is directed at Sadiq Khan

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2024/may/01/tory-hopeful-for-london...

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Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
15 likes

A vote for Susan Hall is a vote against sanity. The most mediocre, unsuitable and downright thick person ever to run for a significant position for a major political party in living memory, and that's against some pretty tough competition. The fact that she hates cyclists is just the icing on the compost heap.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
11 likes

It certainly appears to be a vote against safety.  And asthmatics...

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ktache replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
5 likes

She's going to get 30+%, don't quite know what that says about the sanity of Londoners, but the did vote for the blond liar twice...

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Rendel Harris replied to ktache | 1 month ago
8 likes

ktache wrote:

She's going to get 30+%, don't quite know what that says about the sanity of Londoners, but the did vote for the blond liar twice...

We're so many different towns in one city - large portions of what are effectively the Home Counties forming the outskirt boroughs. They are where she'll get her votes, a lot of them off the back of her ULEZ and (imaginary) pay-per-mile scaremongering. Fingers crossed...if the last decade has shown anything it's that there's no such thing as a sure thing anymore...

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Bill H replied to ktache | 1 month ago
1 like

For my money the blond liar is second only to LB Camden for enabling cycling in London. I can remember when the only properly segregated cycle lanes were in Royal College Street and Tavistock (which were opposed by Labour's first mayoral candidate Frank Dobson). The not so Super Highways installed in Boris's first term as mayor became half decent in his second term and flipped the mindset from encouraging cycling (training etc) to enabling cycling by making it safer to do so.

He's still a liar and Andrew Gilligan was badly tainted too, but how much worse would cycling in London be without them?

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Simon E replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
12 likes

She will not get many votes for her pledges or policies. Most of the votes will be simply because she wears a blue rosette. The bollocks she spouts is an optional extra.

The only reason all the selfish people vote for her is because they know she promotes a deeply selfish ideology and they think that's good for them.

It's the same here in Shrewsbury. Daniel Kawczynski is incompetent and corrupt; he couldn't give a toss about his constituents or local businesses. Yet enough selfish people vote for him simply because he's a Tory. You could put a blue rosette on a cross-eyed, one-armed chimpanzee and those fools would still vote for it.

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wtjs replied to Simon E | 1 month ago
2 likes

You could put a blue rosette on a cross-eyed, one-armed chimpanzee and those fools would still vote for it

I prefer the original: pig's bladder on a stick

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