The votes are being cast and we’ll soon find out who will be Mayor of London for the next four years. It remains to be seen whether the unprecedented mobilisation of London’s cyclists will help decide the outcome, but judging by the polls it seems unlikely that Ken Livingtsone (the preferred candidate amongst the big two) will emerge victorious.
Regardless of the eventual outcome this election is likely to prove pivotal in deciding the longer term future of cycling in the Capital. London’s cyclists are more politicised than ever thanks to the fantastic efforts of Londoners on Bikes (an organisation that didn’t even exist 6 months ago, that has turned out to be a very smooth and savvy operator); strong campaigning from the London Cycling Campaign under the banner of Love London, Go Dutch; and the excellent Cities fit for Cycling campaign run by The Times. They’re also increasingly vocal and visible – a process that started in 2011 with hundreds taking part in the first Blackfriars flashride and culminated (for now) with 10,000 braving the rain to join LCC’s Big Ride last Saturday.
Judging by his track record and manifesto commitments four more years of Boris Johnson won’t be great for cycling, but it need not be disastrous. Johnson has signed up to both The Times Cycle Safe manifesto and LCC’s Go Dutch principles. That doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily deliver on those commitments, but it does make it easier for the cycling community to hold him to account. In the short term this will hopefully mean that at the very least some of the most dangerous junctions will belatedly be improved and the next generation of cycle ‘super’ highways ought to be an improvement on the last.
But whether it’s Boris or Ken who starts work at City Hall on Monday, the real opportunities are longer term. Creating the conditions for mass cycling to flourish in London will take time, and it will be at least four years before we find out whether London is to become a true cycling city. If it is, then the debate at the next election can’t be about cycle safety. London’s cyclists, building on the momentum gained during this election campaign, will need to be at the vanguard of a mass movement for a more liveable city, with everyday cycling at its heart. As I’ve argued before, we need a transport revolution not a cycling revolution.