James Daley: Cyclotherapy

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The Independent Online

When Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London, I was devastated. Politically, Boris and his chums don't stand for the same things I do, and while Ken could prove to be a bit of an unknown quantity, I admired his principles and his ability to get things done.

Furthermore – somewhat surprisingly – Ken had built himself rather a good track record when it came to cycling. While he was never once spotted on two wheels himself in his eight years as Mayor, he did invest millions of pounds in improving the capital's cycling infrastructure, helping to almost double the number of people cycling during his time at the top.

Much of this progress was made due to the delicately balanced London Assembly, where the Green Party had fortuitously got themselves into a position where their votes were crucial when it came to Ken getting his spending plans through. As a result, the Greens agreed to support Ken's budget, in return for his commitment to invest in cycling – everyone was a winner.

By the end of his term, Ken barely even needed encouragement. One of his last major announcements was a commitment to roll out a massive bike hire scheme in London and to invest in a handful of cycling superhighways, to speed up cycle journeys in from the far corners of the capital.

Although Boris regularly commutes by bike, I always feared that he would not do as much for cycling in the capital as Ken. And only weeks after his arrival in the Death Star (the ugly city hall building on the south bank of the Thames), my worst fears are starting to be realised.

A few weeks ago, Boris announced that he plans to reverse Ken Livingston's decision not to allow motorbikes into bus lanes – a policy that one would never have expected to be supported, let alone cooked up, by any loyal supporter of the cycling movement.

Since then, the Green party has started a petition to try and stop him in his tracks – but given that this is one of his first initiatives as London Mayor, it doesn't leave us cyclists with much to be optimistic about.

Furthermore, the fact that the Greens are now having to fight Boris on a cycling issue shows how the balance of power has shifted. Alas, Jenny Jones (the London Greens leader and former cycling adviser to Ken) no longer has the same sway in the assembly, and will find it harder to keep Boris on the straight and narrow.

I'm sure it won't be all bad news. Boris does at least support the abolition of bendy buses – one of London's true menaces – and has agreed to push ahead with Ken's plan to implement the bike rental scheme. But it does seem ironic that in the future cyclists may look back and realise that they did much better out of a mayor who didn't even ride a bike.

mailto:cycling@independent.co.uk

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