Following the recent spate of cycling deaths in London, and the subsequent barrage of stick aimed rightly at occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, there has at last been a response from his cycling representative on earth, Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, who has, unusually, been given space by the deeply subversive Guardian to put his case.
Moving swiftly along from wondering briefly why the Telegraph would not publish his comments, we find that Gilligan has produced an article that is unusual in several ways: it sounds, on the surface, conciliatory in tone, nobody is accused of being a liar, and he looks to calm tensions, urging patience and playing of the long game. But the fog of whataboutery is not far away.
What he fails to address is the effect that his boss’ response to the deaths, and generally peevish attitude to criticism, has had on relations with cyclists. Bozza’s latest Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) was marked by petulance and abuse, including the all too common resorting to mental health smears. Jenny Jones was quite correct that cycling in the capital is becoming more, not less, safe.
Bozza is also not gaining brownie points by suggesting that the deaths are being caused by cyclists not observing the rules of the road – in other words, that they are their own fault. Gilligan compounds this by telling that there was only one fatality in Zone 1 last year, which is bugger all use when many of the deaths are taking place outside that zone, in areas like East London (pace CS2 and Bow Roundabout).
But Gilligan’s most glaring howler is when he asserts “The blunt fact is that cyclist deaths tell us relatively little. There are too few of them”. There has only been one on-train passenger accident fatality on the National Rail network since the start of 2005, two less than the number of cycling deaths that Gilligan says is “too few” to learn from. The Railway continues to learn about safety nevertheless.
The number of air accident fatalities in almost all of Europe is at an all-time low. Yet every incident, even those that do not result in significant injury, leads to lessons being learned. There is no need for someone to be carried away in a coffin in order to improve safety. And trying to paint Amsterdam as being no better, when the number of cycling deaths is less than half those in London, is silly.
Moreover, Amsterdam manages as many cycle trips as London with a population a tenth of the size. That suggests the cycling infrastructure is rather more appealing to cyclists of all competencies that that being discussed by Gilligan. The attitude of his boss, blaming everyone else for the deaths, and himself, pretending that there aren’t enough bodies to learn lessons, is just out of order.
Londoners are paying for these two clowns. They deserve better. End of story.