Just under three years ago Boris Johnson made one of the wisest decisions of his mayoralty and appointed Andrew Gilligan as London’s first ever Cycling Commissioner.
Boris’s reputation as ‘the cycling mayor’ means the plaudits and praise for improving cycle safety inevitably head his way.
But much of the heavy lifting, such as sitting through public consultation sessions and meetings with local council planners, as well as pouring over the fine detail of TfL’s plans, has been done by Gilligan.
Those who thought he would ultimately prove to be a mere figurehead for City Hall’s cycling aspirations have been proven wrong.
As demonstrated by various appearances before both the media and the London Assembly, such as this one on Wednesday, his knowledge of his policy brief is faultless.
And while his defence of Operation Safeway’s issuing of fines to misbehaving cyclists didn’t endear him to everyone, many cycling groups recognise him as the key figure behind the capital’s improving cycle infrastructure.
But with a change of mayors on the horizon there’s a risk that Gilligan’s knowledge and expertise will be lost.
Unlike those responsible for overseeing the Tube or bus network, Gilligan is a mayoral appointee rather than a Transport for London employee meaning his contract comes to an end when Boris leaves office.
This could prove disastrous.
Not everyone within TfL has been fully won over to the need to spend so much public cash supporting an activity which raises no revenue, and with the organisation facing a huge funding cut there’s a risk some will use the change of mayoralty to argue for lower or slower spending on cycling.
Keeping Andrew Gilligan in post would ensure that the next mayor isn’t hoodwinked into thinking that cheaper or less ambitious schemes will deliver the same outcomes.
Of course Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith could bring in their own cycling champion, but none can instantly offer London’s cyclists the same level of knowledge about schemes already being developed.
There’s a real risk that by the time they’re up to speed and have overcome any resurgent resistance within TfL vital momentum, and possibly even lives, will have been lost.
The safety of cyclists is simply too important to gamble with which is why both Sadiq and Zac must commit to keeping Gilligan in post should they win in May.