Why London's cycling revolution is an opportunity missed

Mayor has a dream but no real plan, says Green Party's Jenny Jones

I've loved London’s new cycling revolution since it began in around 2003 with the launch of congestion charging. Having worked with cyclists to stop the previous mayor (Labour's Ken Livingstone) from cutting the bulk of the cycling budget – a mere £5 million – I've supported the steady increase in the budgets and scale of cycling projects.

It’s been a hard struggle. Transport for London may formally be signed up to a target of an extra million cycling trips by 2026 but, in my view, their attention is mainly on Tube upgrades and Crossrail (the proposed new railway line from Maidenhead to Shenfield). The target of five percent modal share for cycling may involve twice as many people getting on their saddles every day than will actually ride on Crossrail but, oddly, TfL don’t  appear to see the need for a costed pan-London plan for achieving that increase in cyclists.

For the cycling revolution to really happen it must recruit, according to TfL’s own analysis, two-thirds of its new pedalling enthusiasts from outer London. Boris Johnson's failure to have a serious delivery plan to increase cycling in this area is compounded by the cancellation of the 260 local cycling schemes which made up the London Cycle Network in outer London. Despite serious flaws with the way these schemes were often implemented in the past, we'd got to the point where they were signed off by local cycling campaigners and ready for rollout.

The Mayor’s hype about his "record investment in cycling" isn't only misleading, it's been a way of disguising the cuts to cycling in outer London. That's why I'll be pressing him to correct the official record at today’s Mayor’s Questions at City Hall.

Claim: TfL Press Release of 16 June 2008 said: “A record £55m to be invested in cycling in London this year.” Mayor claimed a £10m increase in funding.

Reality: Actual spend was the previous mayor’s original budget of £45m.

Claim: TfL PR 28 May 2009 said: “The Mayor and TfL are investing a record £111m in cycling in London this year.”

Reality: Actual spend was £57m, just over half of what was claimed.

These figures have never been corrected in any subsequent press releases – not even in the footnotes. The result is that the media and Londoners are left with the impression that the Mayor spent £64m more on cycling than he actually did. That figure is roughly the cost of finishing the London Cycle Network.

The previous mayor, according to a TfL press release of 11 February 2008, had a combined budget for walking and cycling of £125m in the years 2008 to 2010. This leaves us with the impression that funding for the LCN+ was withdrawn in those two years in order to save that pot of money and use it a year or so later for cycle hire and superhighways. 

2008/09    2009/10    2010/11
Total claimed £55m £111m £116m+ boroughs
Actual spent     £44.8m £57m £116m + boroughs          
Carried over £10m £54m None   

The Mayor has now delivered on cycle hire and the first two Cycle Superhighways schemes, but he wasted two years which could have been used to finish off the hundreds of local schemes which were part of the London Cycle Network. He's also failed to come up with any meaningful plan to generate the 820,000 extra cycle journeys he still needs once cycle hire and superhighways are complete.

We dreamed of having a cycling mayor, but although we have a mayor who cycles, he has only a dream and not a real plan for increasing cycling throughout  London. He isn't delivering as much as we need for a real cycle revolution. It’s an opportunity missed.

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