Thursday, 3 May 2012

Open letter to Boris Johnson

A guest post by Helen Vecht

Dear Mr Johnson

Thank you for turning up at The Times Cyclesafe hustings on Monday. I didn't think you'd bother. You have form for failing to show, so well done for attending!

You don't 'get' cycling at all, do you? You ride a bicycle, true, but you seem blind to many of the issues that confront cyclists and totally ignorant of why most of the population remain non-cyclists.

As Mayor of London you really ought to know better.

You state that you do not conform to the stereotype of a cyclist. But in fact you are a typical cyclist. The average London cyclist is a white, well-educated, high-earning, middle-aged man. I believe such a description fits you perfectly. Children, women, old people and those from ethnic minorities cycle much less than people like you. You have not explored the reasons for this, much less addressed them.

Truth is, cycling in London is dangerous and scary. Only the brave bother to cycle in London. Most parents and some headteachers will not allow their children to cycle to school. All the training in the world will not deflect a motor vehicle whose path strays into that of a cyclist.

Several people in Monday's audience had lost loved ones to motor vehicles, through no fault on the cyclists' part. Punishment for those who kill cyclists is minimal, leaving the bereaved with no sense of justice or closure. There is also little deterrent effect to other motorists, which makes chancing with other people's lives appear to be a worthwhile gamble.

The legislation is, in many cases adequate; the problem is that enforcement is poor and attempts to improve this are seen as 'a war on the motorist'. As Mayor, you could make life on London's streets safer by improving traffic law enforcement. This would need more traffic police to reduce speeding, phone-use whilst driving, and dangerous parking.

You have removed traffic lights and pedestrian crossings 'to improve traffic flow'. This would suggest you do not seem to care for the safety and convenience of those who are not in a car on the main road. Well, they are people too and they have a right to move around without losing their lives crossing the road.

Cycling should be for everyone: old, young black, white, male and female. Until you make road conditions more favourable for those who are NOT like you, we will never have the modal share of our continental cousins.

Cyclists need time and space on our streets. If you are not prepared to give this to us, we are not prepared to give you our vote.

Helen Vecht

Last Saturday's LCC Big Ride, as witnessed by The shining ones who dwell/Safe in the Dorchester Hotel

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