This entry was posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2008 at 8:39 am and is filed under Bicycle advocacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
According to the BBC’s politics editor, Boris Johnson is the most likely winner of London’s Mayoral contest, counting for which has just started.
Nick Robinson said: “insiders on both sides now expect - Boris Johnson [to be] elected mayor of London later today.”
Boris is one of London’s most high-profile cyclists. With his bumptious charm and mop of blond hair, he’s certainly the most recognisable.
Bizarrely, cycling has been centre stage in this election, with the three main candidates fighting over who will provide the best cycling facilities for London. Incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone got the Tour de France to London and pledged a huge cash investment for cycling infrastructure in the Capital.
Not to be outdone, the Conservative and Lib Dem canidates - Boris and Brian Paddick - said they’d do even more.
In effect, cycling is in a win-win situation. Whoever actually becomes Mayor, cycling will not disappear off the agenda.
Ken Livingstone is not a cyclist but he did an awful lot for cycling. This was partly political: he relied on support from the Greens in the London Assembly and they’d only stick with him if he supported cycling.
Having Boris Johnson as Mayor of London will be a great ride for all concerned. He’s a hugely entertaining figure, well loved by almost everybody (Livingstone isn’t a fan). He will make sure cycling gets even better in London, largely because he cycles everywhere and there will be some self-interest in improving conditions for cyclists in London.
But there’s also a growing understanding from all sides of the political spectrum that pandering to motorcars in city centres is tantamount to urban suicide. On Monday I cycled through heavy rain in London and was able to get to a number of appointments on time. Folks in cars - and buses - were stuck in logjams. Junction after junction in the West End was jammed solid during rush hour. The rain made the gridlock even worse than usual.
Ah, but the underground must have been travelling freely in such atrocious conditions? Yes, if you could get into a station. Many were closed for ten minute stretches because passenger numbers were exceeded. Travel conditions in London are not expected to improve. London’s population is expected to swell by an additional one million in the next ten years.
If London can’t get a lot more people on bikes, it will become a nightmare to transit the city. Ken Livingstone’s target is 5 per cent of all journeys to be made by bike by 2012. In truth, the percentage will be need to be a lot higher, if gridlock is to be averted.
Mayors in other major cities now get this.
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg caused a big fuss by daring to suggest motorists needed to be reined in. He said: “The last thing we need to do is to encourage people to drive more.”
Here’s the transcript:
REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, earlier this year, Speaker Quinn had proposed a sales tax free week and also a $300 renters rebate. I was wondering if either of those things are in the budget?
MAYOR: Neither is in the budget. I think as- its going to be hard enough to make sure we don’t hurt anybody with cutbacks that denigrate- that degrade the quality of living in this City. At the same time, don’t make the taxpayer’s situation any worse. I thought it was fascinating- Shelly Silver, I thought very responsibly, came out against this idea of a summer break on gasoline taxes which would help Chavez and Kudafi and people like- other people like that. I don’t know why anybody would want to do it. It’s fascinating because his presidential- favorite presidential candidate’s on the other side of it. So you know, they just split in terms of what they think. I thought Shelly Silver was- was right and Obama was right. McCain and Clinton were wrong. The last thing we need to do is to encourage people to drive more and to take away the monies we need for infrastructure in this country. And that’s what reducing taxes does.
REPORTER: Could you elaborate on your opposition to giving drivers a break from the gas tax and how-
MAYOR: It’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in an awful long time from an economic point of view. I don’t understand why you think there’s any merit to it whatsoever. We’re trying to discourage people from driving and we’re trying to end our energy dependence. You don’t do that- and incidentally, and we’re trying to have more money to build infrastructure. All three of those things go- fly in the face of giving everybody 30 bucks a year. The 30 bucks is not going to change anybody’s lifestyle. The billions of dollars that we would otherwise have in tax revenues can make a big difference as to what kind of a world we leave our children.”