Bike campaigning in London is caught in a trap. The public approves of gentle, healthy, eco-friendly cycling, but it hates cyclists – scofflaws who jump lights, ride on footways and cycle at night without lights. Why change the rules in favour of people who break them anyway?
Context is decisive. And it frames everything we campaign for. No matter how reasonable it may be, whatever we campaign for shows up as a demand to favour cyclists, often at the expense of motorists. Many people, including non-cyclists, favour promoting cycling over motoring, but the current dismal state of cycling provision in London reflects the limits of this support. Not because we campaign as Cyclist vs Motorist, but because our campaigns are seen in this context.
It is time we changed the context. Let’s ally ourselves with other groups to pursue a dialled-down London. A quieter city with air that is safe to breathe and streets children can play on. Other cities have this. What is so special about London that we cannot?
We have many potential allies: campaigns for clean air, road safety, play streets for children. Let’s form a broad coalition, hold a large convention, articulate a vision of Liveable London. This will give us a context within which to press for serious change.
And we need to press for serious change. Blackfriars Bridge shows us that the strategy of working with TfL within the ‘bounds of the possible’ has been now been tested to destruction. We need a bigger context than what TfL engineers are willing to contemplate. A way, way bigger context.
Provided we ground ourselves in a vision of a Liveable London that appeals to most people in the capital, we can and should campaign for radical changes. Within such a vision we can campaign even for measures we are unlikely to get, if only to get them discussed in public. If measures are rooted in the grand vision, we will not lose credibility by proposing them.
For example, in a collision a SUV is five times more likely to kill a pedestrian than an ordinary car. No one should ‘enhance’ his own safety at others’ expense like that. Let’s get it made impossible to register a SUV to a London address.
Road rage has no part in a dialled-down city. Standing for a Liveable London, let’s fund some exemplary private prosecutions where we are dissatisfied with inaction by the Met or the CPS. And where a police officer appears to have a weak grasp of the law relating to bikes, let‘s offer his station commander a refresher course for his officers.
Besides the LCC’s 11,000 members, London must have tens of thousands more cyclists who have learned to cycle in our foul air and dangerous streets. But, standing in our vision of a Liveable London, these are only a small fraction of the people whose interests we should be campaigning for. LCC should have – at reduced subscription – another one or two million members: the cyclists-in-waiting.
I’m standing for election on 16 Nov as a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign. Vote for me. Let’s campaign for a Liveable London – for ourselves and for millions of cyclists-in-waiting.