London’s New Mayor, Sadiq Khan, Pledges to “Accelerate” Cycling Progress
London bike advocates proved they were a political force to be reckoned under Mayor Boris Johnson. After cyclists demonstrated that they would not be satisfied with half-measures, Johnson started to make serious headway on safe bike infrastructure in his second term.
It looks like that progress will continue even with a new mayor from a different party.
Last week, Londoners chose Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party to succeed Johnson, a Tory. His resume includes a stint as Transport Minister in the government of Gordon Brown. He took office today.
Streets and transportation are a top-tier responsibility of the London mayor, who appoints the board of Transport for London, an agency that controls not just streets but also the London Underground. All five of the major mayoral candidates pledged to support cycling — and Khan was one of the more enthusiastic ones. He signed on to the London Cycling Campaign’s policy agenda and promised to see through Johnson’s plan to triple the number of protected “cycle superhighways.”
Campaign platforms don’t always translate to concrete policy once candidates are in office, and Khan has missed the mark with some of his public statements. But his statements indicate that the expansion of the city’s bike network will continue under his leadership.
Here’s a look at his positions and public statements about streets, cycling, and transit.
On bicycling and street safety
“My aim is to make London a byword for cycling around the world,” Khan told the Guardian. Speaking to Cycling Weekly, he said he wants to “build on” and “accelerate” the progress made under his predecessors.
Khan says he wants to continue progress on “quietways,” London’s term for bike boulevards — calmer, low-traffic residential streets where bikes have priority. As the city extends the quietway network farther from the central city, it has encountered some fierce bikelash. Even so, Khan told the Guardian, it’s important to see the projects through, while using residents’ feedback to refine the proposals.
Khan is also on the record supporting the expansion of 20 mph zones throughout London. Currently, speed limits are set at 20 mph on about 25 percent of the city’s street network, according to Transport for London.
Chris Boardman of the national advocacy group British Cycling met with Khan and called his promises “encouraging,” especially his pledge to increase the cycling budget over what Johnson proposed. “However, as is always the case, the proof will be in the pudding,” Boardman said.
One statement that tempered enthusiasm for Khan among bike advocates came last month, when he suggested the city’s “cycle superhighways” could be narrowed to reduce car congestion.
In his platform, Khan stressed that his dad was a London bus driver. He has promised to freeze transit fares for four years. Fares increased 40 percent over Johnson’s eight-year term, which Labour Party critics characterized as “astronomical.”
Khan said he also won’t increase the congestion charge levied in the central city. It currently costs Londoners £11.50 to drive in the center city between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
If transit fares won’t be kept stable by raising the congestion charge, how will he do it? Khan claims he can expand the transit network and restore overnight service on the Tube without hiking fares by running TfL more efficiently, making better use of the agency’s real estate, and selling the agency’s expertise via a consulting arm.