The issue of the planned Cycle Superhighways came up at November’s Mayor’s Question Time following a question by Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly's Transport Committee – including the issue of whether Canary Wharf Group’s Finance Director Peter Anderson, who is also a TfL board member, should play a role in any decision made by the TfL Finance and Policy committee who are to discuss the superhighways next week.
The Mayor described the North-South and East-West cycle superhighways as both “still works in progress… We had I think 20,000 responses including a huge amount of support. A lot of criticisms you know. What I can tell you – and I must reassure Londoners about this – I do understand the concerns that many people feel about aspects of the cycle superhighways and on both sides of the ledger – I know that the cyclists have a passionate desire for segregation; motorist groups are alarmed about some of the congestion issues that will arise. I’ve got to take a balanced view and do what is best for the city.”
Caroline Pidgeon thanked the Mayor for the update and emphasised that the plans are hugely popular with Londoners, with 80% supporting the consultation and 2 to 1 in a recent poll supporting the superhighways even if they result in longer journey times for motorists. But, she said, “We know there are powerful vested interests that have been publicly and privately opposing these plans.” She asked if Peter Anderson, TfL Board member and finance director of Canary Wharf Group, who are still very heavily lobbying against the plans, would be sitting on the committee that decides on the 25th November.
The Mayor replied: “Peter Anderson always declares his interests at the start of board meetings at TfL. We will take the decision as far as I know the normal way. I don’t think there’s any particular reason why he should recuse himself from that decision any more say than the taxi drivers or the minicab drivers should recuse themselves.” When asked if necessary, given that the role of the TfL board is to enable the Mayor’s Vision, the Mayor would use his power of direction on the TfL board to ensure that these segregated cycle superhighways go ahead, he responded: “I will make sure that we get a solution that is in the interests of London and of the London economy. I must make it clear though that I will not support measures that in my view result in excessive paralysis of the traffic.”
It’s concerning to see the Mayor of London talking about 'excessive paralysis of traffic' when evidence has shown that fears of London grinding to a halt are unfounded. While we accept that there may be delays in the short term, there will be a 40% increase in people working in central London Boroughs over the coming decades, and a very clear need for London’s workforce to be able to move around. Sir Peter Hendy has warned that overcrowding on London’s public transport system could lead to riots. If we want to avoid disorder or people returning to their cars to get to work – causing even more congestion - then investing in cycling superhighways like these is an absolute must. New York has recently published evidence that shows that since installing protected bicycle lanes throughout the city, there has been a reduction of vehicle volumes as road users shifted to other modes – and journey times have improved in many areas.
We're also extremely concerned that the Mayor isn't taking a stronger line on the involvement of Peter Anderson: as we've said previously, around 80% of the 20,000 Londoners who responded to the consultation support the superhighway proposals; the Mayor of London has said himself that it’s time to reallocate road space; companies like RBS, Orange and Unilever have publicly supported the plans. Yet despite the overwhelming support for the plans, they’re at risk because of one extremely powerful individual who sits on the Transport for London board.
We'll be keeping a close eye on developments over the coming weeks.
A webcast of the Mayor's Question Time is available online - the cycle superhighways are discussed from 58 minutes in.