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Jenny Jones and Boris Johnson clash at Mayor's question time on issue of cycle safety

Mayor accused of cutting cycle safety budget – cycling protesters stage 'Die in' outside City Hall...

Jenny Jones, the Green Party's candidate in May's London mayoral election, accused present incumbent Boris Johnson of slashing the city's road safety budget by two thirds since taking office during an acrimonious Mayor's Question Time yesterday (Wednesday). Ms Jones, who represents Southwark in the London Assembly, also took part in a 'die-in' staged by cyclists from that borough outside City Hall, calling for an end to the "murder of cyclists" on its roads.

Ms Jones accused Mr Johnson, currently neck and neck with his predecessor Ken Livingstone in the polls for the May 3 electionof cutting road safety funding from £30 million to £10 million during his tenure. She also urged him to bring in a 20mph speed limit for residential areas and make all lorry drivers in the capital subject to compulsory cycle awareness training.

“You have endlessly cut money for the London Cycling Network," she told Mr Johnson, " not everywhere but by and large, because there’s all sorts of schemes where had the money been there it would be safer for cyclists.”

The Mayor claimed Ms Jones had got her facts wrong and that he had doubled the sum spent while Mr Livingstone was in power, insisting: “This is not as good as I would like it to be. I would like there to be no casualties. I would like there to be no deaths. But what you can’t say is that cycling has got more dangerous.

“If you look at the money we’ve spent it has been considerable," he maintained. "From the period 2005 to 2008 £93 million was spent on cycling safety in one kind or another. We’ve doubled that, more than doubled that to £204 million.”

While the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme introduced in July 2010 has been a resounding hit, the rest of Mr Johnson's promised 'Cycling Revolution' has, say critics, failed to materialise.

With 16 cyclists killed on the capital's roads last year and three already during 2012, his transport policies and safety record have been under attack from cycle campaigners and opposition politicians alike who accuse him of encouraging more Londoners to get on their bikes without providing the necessary safett improvements in the capital's roads.

The issue of cycle safety has become one of the key points of focus in the mayoral campaign, and as we reported earlier this week a group of cyclists have united under the banner Londoners On Bikes to put pressure on mayoral candidates to put cycling - and the safety of cyclists - at the heart of their electoral pledges.

Following the 'die-in' which saw cyclists don skull masks and lie down on the pavement outside City Hall, Ms Jones commented: “The quantity of needless cyclist deaths and injuries on London’s streets is tragic and infuriating.

“London’s congestion is the worst in Europe and our capital badly needs a real vision for transport that protects all road users' safety, urgently addresses the need to make junctions safer and reduces death and injury on our streets.”

Ms Jones was not the only local politician attending the 'die-in,' Liberal Democrat councillor Graham Neale was also there and the group behind the event, Stop Murder Of Cyclists in Southwark (SMOC), is led by ex-councillor Donnachadh McCarthy.

SMOC is calling for a third of Southwark's transport budget to be given over to cycling infrastructure, the borough's nine worst junctions to be redesigned, and for segregated cycle lanes to be put in place on all TfL-managed roads in the borough within five years.

Simon joined 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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bikecellar | 11 years ago

Part of the problem, as I see it, is too many motorists on bikes. Back in the day anyone on a bike was a cyclist, not so now.

IanPerry | 11 years ago

If creating better cycling conditions was as simple as spending money... Sadly, as with most things, simply spending money does not necessarily bring results.

dullard | 11 years ago

Die in? Grow up. What a waste of time. This campaign is basically saying that London should be designed again from scratch. Be realistic and try to be a bit clever. What can you actually change? Driver behaviour is certainly one thing, but cyclist behaviour is definitely another. There's a preconception that all cyclists are saints and that every accident involving a cyclist and a vehicle is by definition the fault of the murderous driver. Bullshit. Some are, some aren't. So if you're on the road, exposed, surrounded by cars, be attentive and look out. I've said it on before and I'll say it again - the number of appalling cyclists in London has risen hugely in the 18 years I've riding daily around London and dramatically in the last four. No awareness, no lights at night or dusk, no signalling, no looking around, ignoring reds and pedestrian crossings, bunging up ears, poor bike handling, and lack of consideration or anticipation. Cyclists have been led to believe by the likes of Ms Jones that they have a right to be on the road with equal billing as vehicles. Well, that arrogant way, accidents lie. And while accidents are unfortunate, fatal ones tragic, many are avoidable if the cyclist involved was physically and mentally better prepared and better equipped. Drivers should also do better - standards of proficiency behind the wheels have gone south in recent years also - but best not to leave your own well being totally in the hands of others. If Ms Jones wanted to do something really helpful to cyclists, get the Mayor or the boroughs, whoever's budget it comes out if, to spend money to mending roads. Potholes - that's the common enemy.

And for the picky amongst you, 'reds' refers to lights, not to Trotsky or Liverpool Football Club.

Tony Farrelly replied to dullard | 11 years ago
dullard wrote:

Cyclists have been led to believe by the likes of Ms Jones that they have a right to be on the road with equal billing as vehicles. Well, that arrogant way, accidents lie.

Hmm… but they do have a right to be on the road with equal billing - that isn't arrogance, that's a fact. The road belong to everyone because everyone pays for them. Unfortunately though the roads and the way they are used do not make them as safe as they could or should be for cyclists. Remedying that though does not require starting from scratch at all, it simply requires the political will to do it.

Surely you are accusing Jenny Jones of exactly what she is accusing Boris, namely encouraging large numbers of inexperienced cyclists on to London's roads without making adequate provision for their safety. I suppose some might go further than that and say that some of Boris's initiatives - like the Superhighways make the situation worse by giving a dangerous illusion of safety to cyclists not experienced enough to know better.

Big Softy replied to dullard | 11 years ago

I have to agree with Dullard on this.
Too many cyclists are their own worst enemy when it comes to self preservation.
As we are amongst the most vulnerable of road users it makes sense that we do the utmost to ensure our own safety.

The look back over the right shoulder is known by motorbikers as "The Lifesaver" for a good reason.
A tenner for a set of lights from Halfords is a small price to pay for legality and peace of mind.
And I'm not suggesting that the hearing impaired should not ride, but if you are blessed with hearing, it makes sense to use it.

We can talk all we want about improving standards of driving, but it's up to us on 2 wheels to improve the standard of cycling, and by association, our reputation as lawful road users.

Bob78 | 11 years ago

the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme introduced in July 2010 has been a resounding hit

I'm not sure where people are getting this idea. If you scan TfL's advance publicity you can see they were expecting 40,000 trips a day. They've only recently got it up to around 25,000 a day. So it hasn't even come close to meeting their targets, which is one of the reasons why it has lost money. One big problem has been IT, but the other one is surely the fact that most people simply think cycling in London is too dangerous. When we get safe roads we might get a cycle hire scheme that is succesful. Until then, we won't.

Paul M | 11 years ago

It is true that Boris has spent a lot of money on cycle infrastructure, but what he doesn't mention is just how unwisely he has spent it - around a million quid a mile, when Chigao can manage a superior system for around £175k a mile. How does that work??? Boris has focussed primarily on vanity projects and on promoting that well-know tax-evading bank, Barclays.

It is true that Boris launched the velib scheme (I refuse to follow the herd and call them borisbikes) but the concept belongs to Ken - they were well on the way by the time Boris took over.

It is true that death/serious injury rates, per Bn km, are down as total cycling increases, but absolute numbers are well up. And anyway, why should we be impressed with 16 deaths when Paris managed nil, aucun, nul part? Why should we be impressed when people transfer from public transport (where the best safety stats are) and increase their risk by cycling? It is true that more cycling has overall positive effect on life expectancy due to the health improvements but that doesn't excuse a transport supremo's failure to improve casualty risk - and there really is only one thing over which the Mayor has absolute power, and that is transport.

Coleman | 11 years ago

Can edit my comment, please? Your, not you're.

He's still a liar.

winprint | 11 years ago

Boris talks out of his backside.
A great big blue line down the Mile End Road is not safe.
As there is no white line separating the bike lane from the car lane, cars do not know whether to drive in it or not.
Superhighway? Dangerous highway, as a couple of deaths at Bow Roundabout have proved.
It's all about car traffic flow and damn the cyclist.
Boris you have blood on your hands.

Coleman | 11 years ago

Cycling in London is safe as long as you "keep you're wits about you". Boris is a liar and a twit.

Daclu Trelub | 11 years ago

Poor old Boris - damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Hard old life, being a Tory mayor.

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