Today I pledged that as Green Mayor I will spend at least 15 percent of London’s transport investment budget on cycling and walking over my first term.
Making the announcement on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, I said that £1.55 billion will be committed over four years to pay for the completion of the original Cycle Superhighway programme, including stalled or cancelled routes, and for new investment in main road, town centre and neighbourhood People Friendly Streets projects across London, with spending equivalent to a ‘mini-Holland’ project in every borough.
The plans will be funded by rebalancing London’s transport investment plans to put the most efficient ways of getting people around the city first. This will include cancelling road-building projects including the Silvertown Tunnel, as well as the introduction of a workplace parking levy, a revised, more effective Ultra Low Emission Zone by 2019 and a new system of smart congestion charging. Public transport investment will not be affected, and my pledge to cut fares for everyone in outer London and eventually abolish the fare zones completely can also be funded with these changes.
Keeping up investment in cycling is vital if we’re to stop the city grinding to a halt with congestion and at the same time get air pollution down and help people live healthier lives. A 2014 report for the GLA, Transport and Health in London worked out that the public health benefits of just delivering the current Mayor’s Transport Strategy, with its modest increase in cycling, are huge: up to 7,000 additional healthy years of life for London’s population per year, and the equivalent of £250 million saved.
Under Boris Johnson, we have made some progress in recent years on high-quality, safe, segregated cycling facilities in London, but it has been a slower start than planned, and the Mayor will leave office having completed only five of the 12 Superhighways he pledged to deliver by 2015.
And he also leaves future funding in doubt. The current budget plans for Transport for London see a steep decline in funding for major cycling infrastructure and no guarantee of continuing the ‘mini-Holland’ projects beyond the current three pilot boroughs.
To put this right, Greens will guarantee continued funding of the Superhighway programme at its current level, enabling stalled projects to be planned again, and allowing the extension of these facilities to more of outer London.
So far we have barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential for cycling in London. I want to make sure the wheels don’t fall off the cycling revolution we have begun, and make the bicycle the default option for short journeys, just as it is in European cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen.