He’s an Olympic gold medal winner, driving force of much of the technology behind Team GB’s cycling successes and owner of a large successful bike brand.
But Chris Boardman is also a policy advisor to British Cycling and has been meeting the major mayoral candidates to find out more about their plans for two-wheeled transport around the capital.
Speaking exclusively to Londonist, Boardman began the conversation from a surprising angle; he’s not wedded to the idea of promoting cycling as a means to solving the capital’s transport crisis.
“I’m not pro-cycling. I’m pro-common sense. There are 10,000 people a month coming to London and the transport system can’t respond.
“Cycling is a tool to do a job. If someone doesn’t like the plans [for increased cycling infrastructure], they should be forced to come up with a better way of solving the problem. The status quo is not an option.
“TfL isn’t building the cycle highways out of any sense of benevolence. There’s the equivalent of a tube-train load of people arriving each week and not leaving. The only method of keeping everyone moving is by getting them out of motorised vehicles.”
He’s already met Caroline Pidgeon and Sadiq Khan, and has been trying to pin Zac Goldsmith down with mixed success.
“We’ve been trying to get a meeting in the diary for months and he’s finally come back this week with a very specific time and date; 11.30am one week from the election. As it happens, I can’t make that date so we’re going to try and get them to arrange a different one.”
Goldsmith published his transport manifesto last week and although they’ve not met, Boardman says he has studied the document. When asked what he made of it, his reply came back in the form of one word: “ambiguous”.
“David Cameron said he wanted cycling in the UK to rival the rest of Europe but this manifesto contains no promises, no actions and no money. Coupled with some other statements he’s made about cycling recently, I view him with a degree of suspicion.”
London’s cycle campaigners have also voiced their criticisms of Goldsmith recently; a move which led him to state he is ‘positively hounded’ by them. Campaigners have pointed to the fact he would abolish bus lanes — a key part of many cycle journeys — make TfL re-run a consultation which supported a cycle superhighway running through Regents Park by 2:1, rip-up cycle lanes if they didn’t help improve air quality and pledged only to protect TfL’s ‘investment budget' — not the 10-year TfL cycling budget.
Boardman is noticeably more upbeat about the two candidates he’s met so far.
“Caroline’s [policies] are a natural fit when it comes to supporting cycling. Sadiq is bullish. He’s pledged to double TfL’s spend on cycling — they’re tangible things that you can measure them against.”
On criticisms that Sadiq Khan made cycling seem unsafe by not allowing his daughters cycle in London, Boardman said he agreed with his stance.
“The new segregated cycle superhighways are great, but letting kids cycle on London’s roads? No way. The future mayor has to think long and hard about changing the approach to this.”
Pidgeon has been an outspoken advocate for cycling as a London Assembly Member, was the first mayoral candidate to sign the London Cycle Campaign’s (LCC) call to make cycling safer and more enjoyable for people in the capital. She was voted joint winner of LCC’s cycling champion of the year in 2015 alongside Labour’s Val Shawcross.
Despite being pressed, Boardman wouldn’t rank the candidates on their policies until he’s had a chance to grill each of them — throwing a potential lifeline to Goldsmith.
“No, not yet. Not until I’ve heard from them all. And if they don’t answer, then that will be self evident.”
All three of the main candidates have praised the work of the current mayor, Boris Johnson, and all three have promised to build on his success:
- Increase TfL’s current spend on cycling
- Continue and build upon the cycle superhighway programme
- Prioritise ‘quietways’ — dedicated cycling routes on quieter roads and paths
- Use City Hall procurement rules to ensure only ‘direct vision’ lorries (those that don’t rely on mirrors or cameras to see pedestrians and cyclists) are used
- Review the safer junction programme to prioritise safety improvements at black spots
- Use planning rules to deliver more cycle storage in new developments
- Encourage the roll out of 20mph zones across the capital.
- ‘Protect’ TfL’s ‘investment’ budget
- Seek to take as many HGVs off the road at rush hour as possible
- Roll out Oyster card use of ‘Boris Bikes’ and start new Brompton folding bike hire
- Progress the upgrade of the 33 most dangerous junctions and identify further junctions
- Mandate ‘suitable’ HGVs with a clear window panel in the door to increase visibility and trial inflatable skirts for HGVs to stop cyclists being dragged under the wheels
- Develop a strategy to get ‘direct vision’ lorries on the road as quickly as possible.
- Ban HGVs from London’s roads during rush hour
- Increase TfL’s spend on cycling to 3% by the end of the mayoralty, with a promise to increase it further if needed after that
- Continue with and build upon cycle superhighway schemes
- Increase the number of so-called ‘mini Holland’ schemes to get people in outer boroughs cycling shorter distances instead of driving
- Factor in changes for pedestrian spaces into cycle infrastructure, involving the local communities much more
- Increase the congestion charge and introduce a workplace parking levy to dissuade people from driving in central London.