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London mayoral hopefuls wade in on cycling debate - and say prioritisation of motor traffic must end

Prospective Labour and Green candidates, Christian Wolmar and Caroline Russell, say more should be done to promote cycling in the capital

Prospective London Mayoral candidates have criticised current transport strategies in the capital as doing too little to improve air quality and road safety.

Christian Wolmar and Caroline Russell have separately criticised prioritisation of motor traffic over cycling and walking, as well as a lack of action on tackling the dominance of motor traffic in London.

Wolmar, who is seeking the Labour nomination for the May 2016 mayoral elections, says he wants 10% of journeys in London by bike "within a decade" and a default 20mph for the capital, and if he were elected would get more funding for cycling from scrapping 'unsustainable projects' including the £30m Garden Bridge project. 

Russell said it is "miserably normal" that people die on the streets making everyday journeys, and said people must be put before the smoothing of motor traffic flow.

On the Green party website, Caroline Russell, standing for Green Candidate for London Mayor, said: "Last week I joined a traffic stopping vigil organised by Stop Killing Cyclists to remember Esther Hartsilver, killed by a lorry while cycling to work.

"The casual acceptance of a certain amount of death and serious injury on our streets would not be tolerated if it was happening on the railways. But on our roads which are 'meant' for cars and lorries it is miserably normal that people die while cycling to work or crossing the road, while popping out for a pint of milk."

She said this is down to choices made in the way the city is run, and that "people must be put before vehicles on our streets".

She said: "London is the most innovative city in the world. Our dynamic economy should turn its focus to the challenge of delivering a socially just transformation in housing, cleaner air and safer, greener less traffic dominated streets."

Wolmar writes in BikeBiz though London is beginning to accept cycling as a viable means of transport, more can be done, to the benefit of everyone, including by slowing down traffic and "making motorists drive more carefully".

"For the most part, cycling is seen as part of the solution rather than treated with pariah status as it used to be. However, there is still a long way to go before London can be considered as a genuine cycling city on a par with many of its counterparts on the Continent," he says.

"The next mayor of London has to build on these foundations."

He criticised token gestures like bike lanes of a few feet or "ridiculously convoluted attempts to get cyclists through junctions without disturbing the traffic, paths with ‘cyclists dismount’ in the middle".

He mooted a rebranding of the cycle superhighways, while agreeing with the principal of on-road segregated cycle routes.

"I am a bit wary of the very notion of cycling superhighways as they seem to liken cycling to a kind of fast, lycra clad activity which is not the way forward to ensure that it becomes a far more popular mode of travel used by grannies and kiddies alike. Instead, we need a network of good cycling routes," he said.

Wolmar said while quietways - back street routes - are needed, the stress on main roads is important because cyclists want to use the quickest route, like anyone else. He said the cycle hire scheme should be cheaper, and a 20mph zone would be enforced, something which, he says, is "technically possible at a small cost".

He says there is no reason cycling rates in London couldn't reach 10% of journeys within a decade.

"There is already a considerable budget earmarked for cycling, but if there is a need for more money, then there are funds currently earmarked for the £1bn Silvertown Tunnel which would become available since I would scrap that unsustainable project – and there is a further £30m available that would be withdrawn from the iniquitous Garden Bridge project," he said.

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Airzound | 8 years ago

Do any of these gas bags ACTUALLY ride a bike, everyday for any meaningful distance? Thought not. The comments about Lycra are pathetic and show they haven't got a clue what they are talking about. UK is a shit and dangerous place to ride a bike. It will ever be thus, nothing will change. There is neither the political will or the intention to increase driving standards, massively increasing penalties for those drivers that kill and injure cyclists or develop a complete national segregated cycle network as cyclists enjoy in Holland. Basically the UK is a shit place to ride a bike. You take your life in your hands riding on the roads.

bdsl | 8 years ago

Even when routes on the main road are only slightly faster, if at all, than routes on residential roads, they have the advantage that its much easier to tell where you are on an unfamiliar route, and there are shops and other facilitates that you can use without making a detour. It's also often more interesting to see high street business as you ride rather than lots of residential buildings.

Jasper | 8 years ago

I think it's nice that some people of potential influence are making a voice for cyclists out there.
Having said that, London is a city with very old infrastructure foundations. It was never designed for the volume of people travelling by car, bus or bike. I think in the long run we're all going to have to compromise on how we share the roads. The key word being Share. No one vehicle category has priority on the road.
I also think that cycling, now that it has become much more popular should have some sort of governing entity. I know that sounds bad but things like properly maintained bike and perhaps some sort of awareness on the road training would help ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
It's worth mentioning, I cycle a little over 100 miles a week to work in London and I also drive so I am not bias either way.

bdsl replied to Jasper | 8 years ago
Jasper wrote:

I also think that cycling, now that it has become much more popular should have some sort of governing entity.

This makes no sense. Cycling is an activity, not an organisation. How can an activity have a governing entity?

Driving, walking, cycling, and other forms of travel are all regulated to various degrees and with various levels of enforcement by the state. I don't see a need for a new organisation to regulate cycling or increased restrictions.

bdsl replied to Jasper | 8 years ago

You can claim that in theory "No one vehicle category has priority on the road.", but in practice that tends to mean that the people in vehicles that are safe on the inside and dangerous on the outside have priority.

HarrogateSpa | 8 years ago

I agree with most of what Wolmar says, but not the bit where he says that cycling superhighways liken cycling to a fast, lycra-clad activity.

1. It doesn't really matter what bike lanes are called.
2. As long as they can overtake safely, some people can go faster, and some slower.
3. The point he is missing in that quote is that if you make the bike lanes properly safe and physically separate from vehicles that threaten people, then all sorts of people will use them.
4. Can we stop going on about Lycra? It's clothing that is suitable for some types of cycling. If you want to talk about attracting more people to cycling, some fast, some slow, talk about that. Don't go on about Lycra, it is stupid.

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