Be brave – an open letter to the mayoral candidates and local councillors

Jogging through Tufnell Park this morning, I was struck by the stream of cyclists along Dalmeny Road, a short cut that takes out much of Holloway and Camden roads for people heading into town. There was never a moment when there were not several cyclists in view and they were a mixed bunch. The Lycra speedsters were very much a minority with lots of smartly dressed women and middle aged blokes wearing ridiculous shorts over tights. There was, too, a woman in a ra-ra skirt chatting to her child on a seat in front of her, and a muslim woman in a headscarf who reminded me of that wonderful film about a girl in Saudi Arabia longing to own a bike.

I used to cycle to work along Dalmeny Road some 20 years ago when I worked at The Independent and it was a lonely chore. It was rare to meet a fellow cyclist and the idea that there would soon be a stream of people on bikes every morning would have seemed fanciful. This change has not come about by accident. It has happened because of various decisions by politicians over the years – like the creation of the patchy but at times effective London Cycle Network by Ken Livingstone, of the introduction of a 20 mph zone in Islington and road humps along Tufnell Park Road which used to be a dangerous race track, of the erection of barriers in residential streets to stop rat running, of the provision of cycle parking and so on.

Many of these changes will have been fiercely opposed at the time. Some proposed changes that might have made things better will even have been thrown out. However, this collection of measures, even if they are at times half-hearted, has had a remarkable effect. Cycling is now a key part of the city’s transport system. Therefore, you, as mayoral candidates and local politicians have to be brave. Asking people if they want a cycle route through their street and therefore it may take a bit longer to get out to the main road or whatever is not the right question. The right question is do you want your kids to be able to cycle to school, do you want cleaner air, do you want to encourage people to be more active by cycling and reduce the burden on the NHS and so on? Just because a few people might have a small amount of inconvenience is not a reason to stop schemes from happening.

This is about leadership, about knowing what you want and working to implement it. It is not about asking focus groups what they think and trying slavishly to appeal to them. Of course politicians have to listen, but they also have to know what they want and to show that they are prepared to take risks to get there.

Dalmeny Road is by no means unique. What has happened with cycling in London is transformational. The culture of the city is changing towards a more sustainable and, dare I say it, a happier way of life. It is not just about cyclists, either. Roads that are better for bikes are better for people, too. There is no middle way, here. You are either on board for this transformation, or you are not. You either get it or don’t. The question is, do you want to be on the wrong side of history?

  • Greg Tingey

    What about where so-called cycling improvements” (Sometimes misnamed mini-holland) make no improvement for cyclists whatsoever, & screw it for everyone else, especially those who cannot cycle at all – the elderly frail, ill & infirm?
    Wlatham Forest have done just this, supported by non-local idiots form the LCC.
    Or how to get cycling & cyclists hated, quite unnecessarily.
    My cycling has decreased since the mini-holland was introduced, incidentally.

  • Michal Zadrag

    “the elderly frail, ill & infirm”

    Wrong. In the Netherlands over 65 year olds cycle 25% of their journeys. Look at Wheels For Wellbeing for the second part.

    What is wrong with mini Holland exactly? That you can’t rat run through residential streets?

  • Greg Tingey

    GROW UP
    There is a lady up the road from me who CANNOT cycle – she can hardly walk more than 20 metres ( She is younger than me , & I’m 70 & still cycling)
    She is reliant on taxis for transport, & it is now costing her lots more money, & time, because of the road closures.
    Idiot.
    And also, because you can’t read – I said, that as a result of mini-holland I am cycling less, or didn’t you notice that, moron?
    And there is nothing wrong with the Netherlands, but plenty with the mis-named schemes, using their name …

  • Michal Zadrag

    Maybe I misunderstood what you said, but it implied that elderly people cannot cycle, nor anyone who has disabilities. This is simply wrong. Of course there are people who cannot but it is tiring reading this again and again, especially considering that on a population level cars provide less mobility than bicycles.

    That you cycle less ”because of mini Holland” isn’t actually saying what is wrong with it. What specifically is the problem?

  • Michal Zadrag

    Also, if taxi firms are increasing their fares (which is what I have heard), then how can that be mini Holland’s fault?

  • Michal Zadrag

    And finally, if you don’t know, residential areas are filtered in the Netherlands. It is the only way to provide a complete cycle network.

  • Adam Safford

    Why has your cycling decreased as a result of Mini Holland? Don’t you like cycling on quiet roads?

  • Greg Tingey

    The traffic on the main roads, which I have to use sometimes has increased to the point where is is dangerous- it’s become slower-moving, which, very oddly has made it worse for cyclists – the car drivers & others are paying LESS attention at those low speeds & the potential of being trapped/caught is greater ( In my perception, anyway)
    The back roads are quieter, mostly, but I now have the problem of other idiot cyclists, who don’t seem to think that “keep left” & other rules of the road still apply to them …..

  • Greg Tingey

    Irrelevant.
    The Taxi journeys are taking longer & going further, thus costing more, even at constant prices.

  • Greg Tingey

    The design, or lack of it, of the whole thing.
    It may have stopped so-called rat-running but local residents, on those occasions that they want to need to use their cars, even if they cycle at other times, are constrained on to now unbelievably overcrowded main roads, INCREASING the pollution & delay & annoyance.
    Oh, & can’t actually get in or out of the streets in which they live, except in a very restricted way … which contributes t the congestion & pollution I mentioned.
    My minimum “car” journey is one I regularly make in the evening, when bus frequency is lower, of about 3 miles each way, once a week. The next-shortest journey is 12 miles each way, minimum, & goes outside the M25, to where there is no public transport anyway & I’m often transporting “stuff” which I could not possibly carry by bicycle { Both heavy & large-volume ]
    I’m fairly certain that I travel more by train (of all sorts) than I do by car, in terms of kilometres per year – I certainly try to avoid driving in London, unless I have a very good reason.

  • Michal Zadrag

    9am typical traffic in London: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/931a55c120d8a9847854f2f2c8842eac5b4f8146a2ea6d2aa951a653aae0a74d.png

    Does not appear that Waltham Forest is any worse than the rest of London, unless mini Holland affected all of it.

    Because this is a pattern across all days but supporters do not seem to have the same complaints, I can only assume that this is confirmation bias (all congestion is now blamed on mini Holland) and I would have to see more substantial evidence.

  • Michal Zadrag

    Taking longer wouldn’t affect fares, at least I don’t think so, as otherwise Taxi drivers wouldn’t constantly complain about it. Going further, yes, but we cannot have communities held hostage to rat running to stop a few taxi fares increasing.

    Admittedly I would have preferred something like a series of one way systems that would make rat running impossible.

  • Michal Zadrag

    Other complaints I have heard seemed to stem from an unwillingness to make a route change.

  • SLAT LABOUR®

    I’m sorry but unless you want me and many others to stop paying our council tax, councilloRs MUST listen to people’s concerns and rejections!!

  • Christian Schmidt

    Make the Welsh Active Travel Design Guidance compulsory?

  • Christian Schmidt

    I fully agree!!!
    And my concern is that there isn’t enough decent cycle infrastructure, or road safety, and buses and the underground are too expensive!!!!
    What Mr Wolmar should have made clearer you only need to be brave in opposing the vested interest (and their paid helpers, who tend to include the consultancies that organise so-called ‘focus’ groups), speak to you constituents and you should find much support!!!!!

  • Dan

    You make some good points, but your abuse of another poster makes me entirely unsympathetic to them. A shame really because i doubt you are an idiot and a moron but I have ended up concluding that you may well be, and your points should just be ignored.

  • Greg Tingey

    Tell me more?
    I’ve never even heard of WATDG ….

  • Greg Tingey

    I get SO IRRITATED by the holier than thou cycling zealots, even though I’m a cyclist myself.
    They take the attitude that somehow, even owning a car is in some way evil.

  • Greg Tingey

    LOTS of road-works associated with “MH” & personal observation suggests that it is worse than it was a year ago.

  • Michal Zadrag

    Road works are temporary so don’t count. Personal observation isn’t really evidence to be honest.

  • Michal Zadrag

    Well mini Holland isn’t finished yet. They will build cycling infrastructure on main Roads.

  • Simon Munk

    Ah, the famous Greg Tingey. Scourge of cycle schemes, haunter of comments, shouty beardy man. A local legend indeed. Still, TfL figures showing that buses are now not delayed on Hoe Street… Or evidence that there are fewer and less severe collisions at lower speeds… We won’t concern ourselves with such irrelevances as evidence or studies. No, we will just be abusive to anyone who disagrees with us on the Internet.

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