Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Suspended Activity at This is not for Charity.

Greetings all, I come to you with a combination of good news and sad tidings. The sad tidings are that my recent blog inactivity will be continuing until after May 3rd. I will be leaving you to wade through the lies alone, without regular doses of what I like to think of as my unique brand of loving cynicism.

The good news is that this is because I'm busy. There are many reasons for this (one of which is successful progress on getting my book published), but the short answer is that I've become an urban transport geek. In this capacity, I've thrown in my lot with Londoners on Bikes, who are working hard to mobilise and unify London's cyclists into a voting bloc for the London mayoral elections.

The numbers are compelling. Transport for London (TfL) have long-estimated that there are 500,000 bicycle journeys each day in the city. 20,000 votes represents 1% of the electorate, and Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone are trading places on 49% to 51% of the vote. This means, crucially, that cycling votes could decide the election.

The immediate response to this is often that 'there are more important things than cycling', a statement with which I must (grudgingly) agree, however, the Mayor of London does not control these things. The Mayor of London (unfortunately) has no real control over wages, housing, taxation, education, health, pensions or just about any other important issue you could care to name. The Mayor, however, is the chairman of Transport for London, and as such has real power to implement a positive vision for the city's transport policy. When you vote for the mayor of London, you vote for how you want the city to move. In as much as this, you can either vote progressively, for bikes, pedestrians and public transport, or you can vote regressively, for cars. Vote for cars, and you are voting less for how you want the city to move, and more for how you want the city to crawl, cough and become generally more irate.

As far as the candidates line up, Jenny Jones of the Green Party is likely to remain the preferred first choice of Londoners on Bikes. It's Jenny who we think has the greatest vision for a city based on sustainable transport. The election is decided with an alternative voting system, and so, if Jenny doesn't win a majority of the votes your second preference is counted instead. Presently, we're recommending a vote of 1. Jenny and 2. Ken, who, amongst a host of positive ideas on cycle policy and pedestrianising central areas, has said that he will makes Jenny his cycling minister.

The ideal scenario is that Boris will throw his hat into the ring, and start taking bikes, and the idea of a liveable urban space, more seriously. Thus far, unfortunately, we have been faced with little more than a "smoothing the flow" catechism, and the utopian dream of millions of cars moving effortlessly around the city. It's a square peg in a round hole, and the answer is that cycling can't continue to grow unless it is given a greater presence in budgets and planning. Last year we saw 16 cyclists killed on London's roads (up from ten the year before), and the election is about preserving a status quo of urban motorways on which cyclists are encouraged but not supported, or trying to make a positive change.

Visit the website at www.londonersonbikes.org.uk , sign up with your support, see how you can get involved, email people, talk about it in the pub, and generally spread the word.

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