The Conservative candidate in the forthcoming London mayoral elections, Zac Goldsmith, has told British Cycling that he is committed to ensuring that levels of cycling in the capital “can double”, and that he is intent on carrying on the work of outgoing mayor, Boris Johnson.
Mr Goldsmith met Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy adviser, in London last week, the latest in a series of meetings that Mr Boardman is hosting with mayoral candidates from across the political spectrum.
The development of a new network of cycle superhighways has been a key factor of Mr Johnson’s tenure as London mayor, and Mr Goldsmith says he is determined to ensure that this development of cycling infrastructure in the capital continues.
He said: “Boris Johnson has been one of the most pro-cycling politicians we’ve ever had, and we should pay tribute to him for that. He’s committed significant funds and, if elected, I’ve committed to continuing that programme with at least the same amount of money, right up until the end of the mayoral term.
“Ultimately, I am committed to ensuring that cycling can double - as we expect it to; that it is safer; and that more people – not just professionals but recreational cyclists, mothers, fathers and kids – find that it’s easier, safer and healthier.”
Mr Goldsmith was keen to highlight the problem of pollution is London, which is currently estimated to be causing around 10,000 premature deaths every year.
He continued: “It’s not just about safety, it’s about the air. A lot of people who choose not to cycle do so because they feel that London is just too polluted, so I think the two go hand-in-hand.
“I think that there are a number of things we can do to make a difference. For example, I’ve been talking to haulage firms and truck companies about how we can get more trucks off the road. It’s crazy that people are competing with HGVs at rush hour – it just makes no sense at all.
“They’re chucking out pollution, they’re grinding London to a standstill and they’re incredibly dangerous. We have the means to massively reduce the amount of trucks on our roads. There is a lot we can do to deal with congestion, to clean up our air and to make our roads safer for people who cycle.”
The Conservative candidate emphasised that he has “committed to protecting the transport budget”, a factor which would allow him to continue Boris Johnson’s work. It was, however, acknowledged that the current mayor’s plans have been met with a degree of opposition, and Mr Goldsmith believes that working closely alongside London’s communities is the key to ensuring the right solutions are reached.
“I’m a localist, so I will always try my hardest to work with communities, with local businesses and residents to ensure that they are part of the process,” he continued. “I think that when you develop a community, it can put the shackles up; when you work with a community, you almost always get the right outcome.
“However, the Vauxhall Bridge cycle lane is a good example of something that was bitterly opposed but is now broadly very popular, and it works. So the fears people had were not borne out. I think there is a case to be made, when there is a particularly controversial scheme that’s been proposed, of using temporary planters – putting them down for a year or a few months to see how it works, to see whether or not people’s concerns about that scheme are based on any kind of reality. If they’re not then you do it properly, if they are then you think again.”
The London mayoral election takes place on May 5. The full list of candidates is: Sian Berry (Green Party), David Furness (British National Party), George Galloway (Respect), Paul Golding (Britain First), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Lee Harris (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol), Sadiq Khan (Labour), Ankit Love (One Love Party), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrats), Sophie Walker (Women’s Equality Party), Peter Whittle (UKIP), John Zylinski (Independent).