London Mayoral Election: To Boris or not to Boris?

London Mayoral Election - Protestors

The election campaign for the next Mayor of London is in full swing and candidates are vying for votes. Early polls suggest it’s a two horse race between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone with the result too close to call. Keen cyclists in London will be asking themselves: Has Boris done enough for cyclists and what will he deliver if he is re-elected as Mayor of London?

Cycle hire scheme expansion

There are a few clues as to what Boris has planned next for London’s cyclists. For a start, the cycle hire scheme is largely seen as a success despite failing spectacularly with Boris’ original plan for funding through sponsorship. Boris has pledged to continue to push for expansion of the scheme.

£15 funding for improving the most dangerous junctions

There’s also the recent budgetary announcement of £15 million being made available for the redesign of dangerous junctions in London. The planned redesign of Euston Circus is expected to cost £11m. If a major overhaul of one junction costs so much and offers barely noticeable improvements for cyclists, then there isn’t that much hope for £15 million creating a real difference.

Additionally, as Danny from Cyclists in the City rightly points out, the junction by junction strategy seems more like a band aid approach to a wider problem. A better example is the £9 million investment made by Cambridge council to create 14 new and improved cycle routes that people actually want to use.

Cycle superhighways

Part of Boris’ continuing commitment would be to expand the number of cycle superhighways. The superhighways have had a mixed reception from cyclists. Despite the improvements in road surface and signage, the routes have failed to convince people that cycling is a safe activity.

Beyond that, there is little inspiration is Boris’ current plans for expanding cycling in London and making our capital safer for cyclists.

Inspiration instead can be found in some of the other candidates policies.

Brian Paddick calls for barriers between bicycles and cars wherever possible. He also calls for an expansion in the use of Trixi Mirrors and agrees with the importance of a cycle safety review on key junctions.

Jenny Jones goes much further. She suggests new roads should only be for public transport, cycling and walking. Additionally, cyclists should have priority at traffic lights. She would also like to see more 20mph zones and additional cycle parking. Jenny Jones also supports banning Heavy Goods Vehicles from narrow roads.

Ken Livingstone has pledged to provide free cycle hire access to elderly people. He also supports safety improvements at key junctions and calls for the introduction of a tool to enable cyclists to report safety concerns to TfL.

Will cycling policies play a part in your decision for which mayoral candidate to vote for? Do you think Boris Johnson has done enough? Do you think Ken Livingstone can do more?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts..

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


16 Responses to London Mayoral Election: To Boris or not to Boris?

  1. Coallers 23/03/2012 at 10:16 am #

    Boris has let London cyclists down. Red Ken didn’t do enough for cyclists when he was in office. Vote Jones – the only mayoral candidate who will make London a safer more enjoyable cycling city.

  2. Sherbie 23/03/2012 at 10:19 am #

    I’ve never voted Green before, but am tempted to: Jenny Jones’ road policies get my support 100%. Paddick seems ok. Ken and B’arse just don’t seem to get it.

  3. keith 23/03/2012 at 10:22 am #

    I’m sure its been said many times before, but cycle hire bikes and superhighways were ideas initiated by Ken Livingstone, so its seems a little wrong to credit Boris.

    I’ve not heard a lot from Boris on cycling since becoming mayor. I heard him talk about introducing side bars under HGV’s to stop people being dragged under… which i think would be good, and obviously cycling is something he really cares about, but from the exchanges I’ve heard between him and Jenny Jones the impression i get is that he is a confident and relatively fit cyclist who cycles fast and doesn’t have much fear on the roads or at major junctions.

    That is fine of course, and mostly describes me, but it not great for understanding all the people who currently don’t cycle but find it too scary, or those like my friend who has never gotten over the fear of fast moving traffic passing you within a few centimetres, or isn’t confident enough to assert yourself at a roundabout or major junction.

    Cycling is for everyone, young and old, fast and slow. If nothing changes to London roads in the next 10 years, i will continue to cycle every day and I’m sure Boris will too, but a lot of people will never start unless things are done to make it safer.

  4. Simon Wilcox 23/03/2012 at 10:35 am #

    Vote Paddick as at least we’ll have Brian Bikes. Although it’s almost worth having Ken back just to watch him get all apoplectic when people continue to call them Boris Bikes 🙂

    OK, not really, it’s not worth having Ken back under any circumstances !

    Time to give someone else a go – Paddick would do a good job I think but is saddled with the LibDems current national handicap so stands almost no chance of getting in.

    I think Jones is the only real choice for cycling Londoners.

  5. Annie 23/03/2012 at 11:16 am #

    Jenny Jones recently completed a report on cycling in all London boroughs which addresses many of the issues we as cyclists face on a daily basis:
    I know from personal experience fear seems to be the most popular reason for people not cycling, which is completely understandable. Unless the next Mayor addresses the fear issue there are loads of people who will never cycle and Jenny Jones is the only one that seems to really “get” this.

    If you want to keep track of what the Mayoral candidates are doing for cycling prior to the election it’s worth following Londoners on Bikes weekly round-up of cycling news:
    Also, if you haven’t done so already sign up and spread the word!

  6. Nicolas Fanget (@nfanget) 23/03/2012 at 11:21 am #

    “the [cyclicng super highways] have failed to convince people that cycling is a safe activity”: that would be because they do not, in any way, increase the objective or subjective safety of cyclists. They have made cycle lanes more visible, and that’s about it (except in a few places). Add to that their ridiculous cost (£1 million a mile or so?) and I would chalk that up as “dismal failure.

    I will start saying “Boris Bikes” when the “Emirates Air Line” gets called “Boris Balls”.

    We have preference voting so I would put Jones first, because she is the only one totally committed to cycling being available in London to everyone 8-80, and then it is a toss up between Ken and Brian in #2. Ken would get Jones in, which is good, and is good with public transport, but associates with truly despicable people and makes outrageous statements (just like Boris, they just offend different people). At least he is committed to London. Brian unfortunately has very little chance of garnering any decent support, but could be put in #2 to show you want change, then put Ken in #3.

    I will under no circumstances give a vote to Johnson, he has shown no leadership, no attention to details, no interest in the job (I mean how many jobs does he have?), and is clearly using it only to further his national career. We’ve had that in France with Chirac, interesting things started to happen in Paris only after he and his hangers on were kicked out. Just get him back on Have I Got Old News For You or something.

  7. Dimitris 23/03/2012 at 11:33 am #

    Hi All,

    I am a convert to John Forrester’s (of Effective Cycling fame) thesis that cyclists fare best when they behave and are perceived as drivers of vehicles. Increased physical separation undermines our right to use the roads and will increase the “gerrratoftheway” screams from White Van Man.

    You may remember the attempt to change the highway code so that bicycles should ride on cycle lanes where such existed. Physical barriers woould bring this back on steroids.

    Safe journeys

    • tim gummer 23/03/2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Dimitris: I wish you safe journeys indeed – if you think a vehicularist approach is going to keep you safe amongst much faster, heavier traffic – let alone encourage non ‘cyclist’s to try riding thereby creating safety in numbers, you will need all the luck you can get.

      The Forrester ‘philosophy’ is beyond an outlier – in fact it can’t be discredited because it has never been credited by any organisations of consequence. His views have nil support amongst cycling advocates around the world – even those who frequently disagree about practically everything else.

      Personally, as a situp rider, I feel somewhat confident, ‘claiming the lane’ in traffic, even riding in a city very unfriendly to cycling; but it will always be a relatively hazardous poor substitute for properly separated cycle infrastructure.

      So yeah – good luck with that.

    • Nicolas Fanget (@nfanget) 23/03/2012 at 3:12 pm #


      I too cycle in a ‘vehicular’ fashion, as do probably most of the people reading and commenting on this blog. However, this is not because we like it, but because on the roads right now it is the only way to remain relatively safe. This is not about us, this is about the people who do not cycle.

      Take my wife, she is an assertive, sporty woman (black belt in Taekwondo), but she will not get on a bike on London, even though she loves cycling, because she does not want to have to mix in fast, sometimes purposefully aggressive traffic. My son is too young to cycle, but even after he can cycle it will a long time before he will be able to go to school on his own, because I won’t let him, it is just too scary.

      It is for them, and the others who cannot do vehicular cycling (elderly, disabled, just tired…), that we need Dutch-style and Dutch-quality cycle infrastructure, not us.

  8. David Arditti 23/03/2012 at 12:49 pm #

    There’s a one-word answer to that false thesis, Dimitris: “Holland”.

    Or, a more comprehensive answer in not very many words: “Every advanced country that has high cycling levels separates cyclists from motor vehicles”.


  9. jay 23/03/2012 at 1:36 pm #


  10. Dan 23/03/2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Why any cyclist would vote for Boris I do not know. He has consistently ducked important issues and would rather push “smooth traffic flow” at the expense of safer roads for cyclists. Boris is a man who cycles, he is not a cyclist. Ken did much more for cyclists in London, if just by introducing charges which discouraged drivers to enter central london.

  11. skippy 23/03/2012 at 8:34 pm #

    WHOEVER is going to introduce a 20 MPH speed limit is worth voting into Office !

    Slower traffic whilst a separate cycling system is being installed will not only save lives but hopefully reduce polution ! Can you imagine anyone spinning their wheels to get to 20MPH ?

    At present drivers go from stationary to flat out for a few yards then slam the brakes on as they arrive at the next tailend , time they started to coast up to the problem instead of squealing their tyres and brakes ! Perhaps a lower speed limit will allow for more smooth driving instead of surges !

    CAMERON obviously wants Boris failure to continue , that is why he spewt a few crumbs off the table ! Time he got on the bike he used in Witney and see what he needs to do to get the economy moving once again ! No one stalled in traffic is contributing to the resurgence of ANY business let alone the country’s economy !

  12. John 24/03/2012 at 8:06 pm #

    1st vote: Jenny, 2nd vote: Ken.

  13. Joelle McNichol 26/03/2012 at 4:22 am #

    To be honest, Ken, Boris and Brian have not convinced me that any of them have the vision or commitment to transform London into the true cycling city it could be.

    Please can I urge everyone who cares about this issue – cyclists, those who’d like to cycle but feel to scared, those with a loved one on two wheels – to sign up to the Londoners on Bikes campaign and show the mayoral candidates the size of the cycling vote. Prove to them there’s demand (and votes) for good cycling policies. Help us hit 10k by April 3.

  14. Iggy 09/04/2012 at 7:17 pm #

    I totally support Jenny!

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