Green Party’s mayoral candidate warns that lack of new ideas and cuts in funding risk stifling growth
by Simon MacMichael on September 27, 2011
London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who acted as deputy mayor under Ken Livinigstone and is herself the Green Party’s candidate for next year’s mayoral election, welcomes efforts to increase cycling in the capital in recent years, but warns that a lack of vision and cuts to the cycling budget may stifle further growth, as she writes in the blog post below for road.cc.
Is London’s cycle revolution losing momentum? by Jenny Jones
2010/11 was the London Year of Cycling and the success on the streets is there for all to see. The plans for cycle hire and superhighways that I was involved with drawing up under the previous mayor have been taken forward by this mayor. As much as I complain about the failure to deal with some dangerous junctions on the superhighways, or the slow progress in expanding cycle hire to a similar sized scheme as Paris, I love the fact that we are arguing about the detail of how things should happen, not whether they should be happening at all. That is a far cry from when I campaigned with cyclists in 2001 to stop London’s measly £8m cycling budget from being cut.
Cycling is being taken seriously, but having pushed for years for bigger budgets and bigger changes, I am worried that the momentum is about to go out of our cycling revolution.
2011 was also the third year of mayoral press releases claiming ‘record levels of investment in cycling’ and the third year of delivering less than promised. I have discovered that Boris has under-spent his annual cycling budgets so far, by £80m. However, I can guarantee that we won’t get a fourth press release claiming a ‘record level’ of spending on cycling, as this year the cycling budget is dropping by £22m.
Year Total claimed Actual spent Carried over
2008/09 £55m £44.8m £10m
2009/10 £111m £57m £54m
2010/11 £116m + boroughs £100m + boroughs £16m
2011/12 £94m unknown unknown
The reason for the drop is simply that the current mayor has run out of ideas. Cycle hire was designed to attract new cyclists in central London. The superhighways cater for the commuter cyclists. And then what…? Cycle hire is being expanded east and west to reach a wider audience and at some point it may be a comparable size to the Paris scheme. Surely that isn’t the limit of our ambition? That, eight years after I went to visit Paris on behalf of the last mayor and got the idea adopted in London, we will finally catch up with our French neighbours?
For all the talk of record investment, the money for cycle training, cycle parking and local cycle schemes, remains fairly unchanged. Indeed the cancellation of funding for the London Cycle Network was a disaster for outer London cyclists, who struggled to take forward over 230 safer cycling schemes which they had worked on and agreed with local engineers. Even the Mayor’s funding for greenways has been halved, despite its obvious benefits for promoting a really enjoyable cycling experience.
The Mayor did respond to my pestering and agreed that the biking boroughs money needed to be a dedicated ring fenced budget, but he then allocated such a pathetic amount of money that very little of substance can be done with it. £4m over three years, compares badly with the £50m in one year which boroughs lost when the Mayor cancelled the London Cycle Network.
A genuine cycle revolution has to extend beyond zones 1 and 2 and reach all the distinctive town centres and communities which make up our wonderfully diverse city. My cycling tour of London has brought home to me the endless list of local problems and exciting opportunities which the Mayor and the boroughs need to deal with. All the unfinished schemes from the LCN and the visionary plans for the greenways network barely scratch the surface of the pent up demand for safe, high quality local facilities. Rather than back pedalling on the cycling budget the Mayor should be planning for it to double again as the cycling revolution heads for the suburbs.