When he first ran for the office back in 2008, London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wanted everyone to know he was the cyclists’ friend. Heck, he was one of them, he cycled everywhere, he was well-known for it, and had been a regular on the city’s streets since his time at the Spectator. So cyclists trusted their votes to him. And as with so many other groups, he roundly abused that trust.
What's that, chaps? "Do something"? Er, crikey ... oo-er ... Yikes!
At any time that push came to shove, Bozza caved to the car lobby. So instead of giving the rapidly increasing numbers of cyclists proper segregated space – as would be routinely expected in cities like Amsterdam – there was often little more than a strip of blue paint at the side of the road. Some of these were then passed off as “superhighways”. And at major intersections, there was worse.
The idea of separating out cycle and motor traffic just did not happen, and as a result there have been parts of the cycle network plagued with accidents, all too many of them fatal. How many? Well, this year thirteen cyclists have been killed on the capital’s roads, but the statistic that is taxing Bozza right now is that five have died in a nine day period. That’s a truly grim statistic.
One of the most notorious accident blackspots, Bow Roundabout, was responsible for the fourth of those, a tech entrepreneur called Venera Minakhmetova. She was just 24 years old, the kind of self-starter and networker that the likes of Boris Johnson holds up – rightly – as an example to others. Her family wanted hers to be the last such death. Their hope was dashed almost immediately.
Another cyclist was fatally crushed by a bus yesterday on Whitechapel High Street. It will not be lost on Bozza watchers that the bendy buses he damned as “cyclist killers” never actually killed any of the capital’s cyclists, but the conventional ones have been responsible for two of the latest five (the other fatal bus incident happened close to East Croydon station).
Only after this spate of deaths is Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, Bozza’s generously remunerated cycling champion, making soothing noises and assuring all concerned there will be proper segregated cycle space, including traffic signals at road junctions. The response to this Damascene conversion has to be this: why the hell was it not done years ago – or started when Gilligan was appointed?
On top of that, Bozza has instantly alienated the cycling lobby by telling them it’s their own fault, saying that if they didn’t obey the rules of the road, “there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives”. But there is: had there been proper segregation, there could have been no contact. Instead, he dodges the issue, once again taking the votes and running away.
The voters were told what he was like. Now they know. And it’s not good enough.