The Independent View: how London Mayoral candidates shape up on cycling and transport

The way that we travel and the places we live in have a massive impact on our lives, going well beyond what’s traditionally considered transport policy. Increased car use is driving up levels of obesity, polluting our cities and leading to more accidents. As London’s population grows, the demands on our transport system make it an ever tougher nut to crack.

Sustrans wants to see a London, and a country, where everyone is able to get around, to work, school, shops and leisure facilities. Making it easier and safer to walk and cycle for our short everyday journeys is a key part of that, as is making public transport more efficient and affordable.

Next Monday (30 April), along with The Times, we’re bringing the five leading candidates in the London Mayoral election together to debate cycling as part of the newspaper’s ‘Cities safe for Cycling’ campaign.

The candidates have all published their transport manifestos, and Sustrans has analysed them against our own vision for the capital.

Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones both lead the way when it comes to their proposals for cycling, especially in realising that we need to make it accessible to all. At the moment, the cycle hire scheme is dominated by middle-aged men in suits travelling to work. There is so much more potential here. Women make up 42% of the journeys on the new London Greenways, routes on paths and quiet back-streets pioneered by Sustrans and TfL. Livingstone and Jones are committed to extending this network.

While cycling levels in central London have rocketed in recent years, the outer boroughs have fewer safe routes and fewer cyclists as a result. Brian Paddick, Siobhan Benita and Livingstone have clear plans to address this, with Paddick particularly keen to improve our public spaces to make them more enjoyable to travel through and spend time in.

Sustrans top priority for making cycling safer is 20 mph limits on our residential streets. Here we can report very positive news, with four of the candidates declaring their intent to slow down our traffic and make London more people-friendly. The current Mayor, disappointingly, is not among them.

In fact, Johnson really stands still on cycling. Falling back on some high-profile success with the ‘Boris Bikes’ and the cycle superhighways, he fails to demonstrate a vision to help more people travel by bike. Perhaps he will use the hustings as a chance to show how he’ll make his much-touted ‘cycling revolution’ more than empty rhetoric.

Jones is very clear that she wants walking and cycling to become the norm, and has the most  progressive vision for changing the way London thinks about cycling. The hustings will present her with a real opportunity to highlight how she intends to get more Londoners travelling under their own steam.

Independent candidate Siobhan Benita is introducing some new policy ideas to the debate and promises to lobby for cycle safety to become part of the driving test, an interesting proposal and an approach which none of the other candidates has spoken about.

None of the candidates set out their plans for the school run, which makes a massive contribution to pollution and creates almost 300,000 extra car journeys a day in London. By getting kids out on the bikes, we’ll help them to be healthier and will start to make it a normal way to get about for the capital’s next generation. I hope that the candidates will address this issue next Monday.

Overall, the Lib Dem manifesto is closest to our own. There is a clear determination to make public transport affordable and accessible for all, and I really like the one-hour bus ticket proposal. Livingstone too clearly focuses his ambition on further investment in public transport. His tube fare cut ambition is ambitious, but if it happens it will enable many more Londoners to afford to get around on the tube.

The current Mayor seems to have a different vision, instead wanting to build more roads for London, re-enforcing the view that the ‘car is king’. Boris seems to fail to understand that more roads mean more cars, and more congestion. Which is bad for business, and more cars on the roads will make cycling less appealing to those who might want to give it a go.

The leading Independent’s manifesto offers a priority for public transport ahead of the private car, but a surprising commitment to a third runway at Heathrow.

Next Monday will be the final hustings before the London Mayoral election. Cycling is becoming one of the key issues in our city. We’re looking forward to an interesting debate, and one that will provide Londoners with a clear idea of how the Mayoral candidates will get our city moving.

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This entry was posted in London and The Independent View.

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