No choice at all?
28.04.08 by Buffalo Bill
So it comes down to this: an indigestible choice between the unspeakable old Etonian over the recalcitrant old Trot. I am speaking, of course, about the London Mayoral elections on Thursday. There appear to be only two candidates who have a chance of winning, so if your first choice for Mayor is not Boris or Ken, then you ought to consider what your second preference vote might be, as it seems it will be 2nd preferences that will decide the election.
From a London cyclist’s perspective, it is hard to decide which is the least worst of the two. Both have signed up to the London Cycling Campaign’s charter, which means that they are committed to increasing the spend on cycle lanes and paths. I have said elsewhere why I think cycle lanes are a bad idea. You can find more evidence to support the case against cycle lanes and paths here. It’s a shame that all the major candidates (including the Green Party’s Sian Berry) have endorsed the building (or painting) of more lanes, but there you are.
Boris and Ken have not bothered to respond to letters and emails from me, so black marks against both. Ken has only responded on one occasion to a letter from me, and that was before the last election, and then only after Noel Lynch submitted a written question on behalf of the London Bicycle Messenger Association.
After looking at both the manifestos, and the public statements of the two men, I can find 3 areas where there are significant differences between them, which are enough, in my view, to seperate them out.
The first is the area of road danger reduction (sometimes called road safety). Ken has not done as much as I would like, but measures that he has been directly responsible for sponsoring (although often originating from the excellent work of Jenny Jones, Road Safety Ambassador) have significantly reduced the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on the roads (see footnote1). Under Ken, 20 mph limits have been extended to many London roads, and the rephasing of traffic lights has also slowed motor traffic down. These, and other measures, such as the London Road Safety Unit’s campaign to reduce the number of cyclists killed by HGVs, have made London’s roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Boris thinks that the rephasing of traffic lights was a bad idea, and is considering lifting 20 mph limits ‘where appropriate’. Given that the overwhelming majority of London’s roads are residential, and most road danger experts agree that a 20 mph limit is appropriate in residential areas, it’s hard to understand what limits Boris thinks it is appropriate to lift. However, given that Boris thinks, despite all the evidence, that the most dangerous thing for a cyclist is a pedestrian, I guess that he made up that policy without referring to the facts first. Why not? He seems to have made up most of the rest of his transport policy without any reference to reality.
The other is the Low Emissions Zone. I have seen some figures that estimate that around 1000 Londoners die prematurely each year from respiratory illnesses caused directly, or indirectly by bad air, and it has been known that London suffers the worst air quality in the UK, and amongst the worst in Europe, for some time. I think it was originally Charlie Bayliss that reported in Moving Target on the appalling air quality in London back in 1989. The Low Emissions Zone forces commercial vehicle operators to clean up their vehicles’ exhaust, which should lead to significant improvements in air quality. Boris thinks this initiative is ‘the most punitive, draconian fining regime in the whole of Europe’. I suppose that means he thinks that the LEZ a bad thing, and will do away with it, along with the bendy bus.
Which brings us to the last thing. Despite a lot of nonsense, Boris has still not produced any credible figures to support his assertion that the bendy bus kills more cyclists than a double-decker. So that’ll be £100 million wasted on taking them out of service, then won’t it?
Like I said, it’s not much of a choice, I am NOT a big fan of Ken, but what can you do? A vote for Boris seems, on the face of it, to be a vote for increasing deaths on the roads, increasing air pollution, and the wasteful attempt to do away with a category of vehicle simply because one man can’t overtake them in comfort, and doesn’t like the look of them.
I will leave you with one thought: if you think London is in a right old pickle, needs sorting out and that Boris, Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of London, is the man to do it, I encourage you to think back and try to recall the last time the Conservative Party came up with a brilliant idea for sorting London out. Yeah, that’s right – abolishing the Greater London Council. That worked well, didn’t it?