Green Party London Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones wants Conservative colleagues to back an amendment to the Mayor’s budget requiring TfL to spend 2% of its budget on cycling.
I tried to help Boris Johnson and his allies on the London Assembly yesterday by ensuring he had the money to deliver his cycling vision. My budget amendment was passed, but not unanimously. I want to explain why all Assembly Members should support the amendment at the final budget meeting.
My proposal was to increase the cycling budget to 2% of the total money spent on Transport in London (TfL), which reflects the 2% of existing journeys in London which are made by bike. It is a fair measure which generated cross party support in 2012 when it was one of the recommendations in the Assembly report ‘Gearing up’.
It will also deal with cycling underspends and cuts. TfL underspent its budget last year by £38m, partly because they were redesigning schemes to take account of the new ‘Go Dutch’ inspired cycle standards. You might expect this year’s budget to rise by that same amount, but in fact it has been cut from the £127m TfL was planning last spring to £107m.
At the budget meeting, Gareth Bacon AM argued that TfL should sort out its underspend problem before increasing the budget. But there is no reason they can’t do both, and if TfL is left with this lower budget the Mayor will definitely break his manifesto pledges.
With 10 more Cycle Superhighways and a total of 25 junctions due to be re-engineered in the next two years, I imagine that a few will get delayed, or reduced in scope as the consultations get underway and local objections pick up steam. Delays can happen to any transport project and the engineers often over-program to take that into account. TfL could over-program on a £107m budget, or over-program a more ambitious range of projects on a £173m budget. Having more money shouldn’t stop them from tackling the underspend problem, any more than it has stopped their huge investments in the tube.
What would a £107m budget mean? I think it would mean broken promises.
A report going to the TfL Board next week says traffic engineers have looked again at the cycling superhighways, which are due to be finished by the end of next year, and realised that high-quality schemes will cost £50m more. Their solution is to either take the £50m from other cycling projects, or to cut down the size, or number of the superhighways.
When I questioned the Mayor about this, he stated that: “What I won’t have is ones that are sub-standard.” It is a positive answer, but unless he increases the cycling budget, this will either mean fewer superhighways or some other schemes dropped, breaking his manifesto promises.
The situation is even more precarious when you realise that most of what TfL have planned in the coming year is planning. The actual construction of high quality cycle lanes and safer junctions is due to be done in the final year. Unless my amendment to increase the cycling budget this year is taken up by the Mayor, then he will be left with a last minute dash to get things done at the end of an eight year term.
How much of the Mayor’s cycling vision will be completed in time for Boris Johnson to claim a genuine cycling legacy if he stops being Mayor in 2016? It is a question that should bother Gareth Bacon and everyone else who cares about cycling in London because after 2016, there are no guarantees that the next Mayor will carry on with this Mayor’s cycling vision.
Boris Johnson has expressed his frustration at the slow pace of change. My amendment offers a last chance for him to listen to advice and deliver something good before he goes.