Former London cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan has joined forces with award-winning blogger Danny Williams and others to form a group, Human Streets, that aims to keep the pressure on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to deliver the infrastructure they say the capital’s cyclists need.
In an article published by the London Evening Standard that also appears on the newly launched Human Streets website, Gilligan likens recent press articles criticising the city’s cycle superhighways and calls for the infrastructure to be torn up to be no more than “post-truth politics, best left to the speeches of Donald Trump.”
But he warned – not for the first time – that the momentum built during the last three years of Boris Johnson’s tenure at City Hall risk being undone as groups opposed to giving more space to cycling seek to thwart such efforts.
The road lobby may not destroy the current cycle tracks but the real aim, I imagine, is to block any more — and it seems to be succeeding,” he cautioned.
“Despite Mayor Sadiq Khan’s promise to triple protected lanes and “significantly increase” spending, the cycling programme has all but ground to a halt.”
Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, told road.cc last month that some well-known names were among those who had applied for the role of cycling commissioner, “from journalists to politicians and cycling superstars, so a real range of people who’ve been very involved in the lobby.”
She added that the pay, hours and level of seniority were the same as they had been for Gilligan when he occupied the post.
She also insisted that Khan and his team were committed to prioritising cycling and walking initiatives, but would consult on them in a way that would not lead to “some residents, who don’t see themselves as cyclists, feeling disadvantaged.”
But Gilligan, appointed by Johnson in January 2013 to the newly created position, noted: “My old job … has been vacant for six months.
“There’s no one in the Mayor’s office to rebut the nonsense or hassle TfL. My successor will work just 11 hours a week on cycling, and sit much further from the Mayor than I did.”
Rejecting the current administration’s claims that infrastructure completed under his watch had failed to take consult adequately and of pushing the projects through, he outlined some of the challenges he and Johnson had needed to overcome.
“The superhighways took three years to build — only in England could that be called rushing it. You should, and we did, build as much consensus as possible.
“But for some, I learned, no compromise could ever be enough, no consultation ever too long, and the real aim was to filibuster projects out of existence.
“I hope Khan doesn’t waste too much time finding that out,” he added, pointing out that there are just three and a half years left before the next mayoral election.
Looking at current projects, Gilligan said: “The last gap in the east-west superhighway, along Birdcage Walk and past Buckingham Palace, is meant to be finished by now. It hasn’t even been started, though there is work on Constitution Hill.
“Only one of three other superhighways we consulted on nearly a year ago has the go-ahead. A second, the Westway, will probably be scrapped, and a third — through Regent’s Park — watered down to pointlessness. Proposed segregated lanes on South Lambeth Road have been axed.”
Turning to two of the criticisms levelled against cycle superhighways – that they increase pollution and congestion – he said: “Data from the superhighway routes, published on the London Air website, shows that pollution since they opened has, if anything, fallen.”
He added: “Thanks to the superhighway, 52 per cent of all traffic on the Embankment is now bicycles. Just one lane of that four-lane road, which is what we took out to create the cycle track, is now carrying more traffic than the other three lanes put together.”
Gilligan concluded: “Because we’re worried about the lack of progress, a few of us are starting a new initiative, Human Streets, to keep an eye on cycling, push back against the antis and hold the Mayor to account.
“We’ll know soon how serious Khan is about cycling. Because it’s difficult, perhaps it will also tell us how serious he is as Mayor.”
We have asked the Mayor’s office for their reaction to his remarks.
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.