Londoners have just sent a clear mandate to its politicians – do more, be bolder, go faster on walking, cycling and the climate crisis. Voters turning out to elect a new Mayer and London Assembly as well as is several by-elections sent a clear message that they like active travel schemes such as cycle tracks and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and they support politicians delivering them and promising them, while increasingly rejecting those who don’t.
The Mayoral election was closer than expected given the polling (which showed Sadiq drubbing nearest rival, Conservative Shaun Bailey). But this was mostly due to lower than expected voter turnout and a significant swing to the Greens in the form of Siân Berry. Ultimately, despite repeatedly attacking LTNs and cycle tracks and opposing the ULEZ expansion, Bailey did no better than his predecessor, Zac Goldsmith. And a raft of politicians (including Laurence Fox, Brian Rose and Peter Gammons) who made LTNs and the perceived congestion arising from them and other active travel schemes central to their campaigning all lost their deposits, while Berry for the Green Party came third, with strong and unequivocal support for active travel, the ULEZ expansion etc., and with a significantly increased vote and vote share. Luisa Porritt, Lib Dems, came fourth, having signed up to our “Decision Time” Climate Safe Streets campaign alongside Berry.
It wasn’t just Mayor elected, however, and while we wait for clearer ward level results, the voting patterns for the London Assembly and several ward by-elections demonstrate even more clearly that Londoners want more active travel and action on climate, and emphatically do not back opposition to such an approach. Of course, this has been evident for some time in repeated public opinion surveys across the capital on these issues. But it was clear from the ballot box, this has translated into voting patterns.
Those who’ve repeatedly opposed cycling and walking schemes, more action on climate, either lost or saw existing majorities crumble. Probably most notable was Conservative Assembly Member Tony Devenish who, following open campaigning against proposed Holland Park Avenue and briefly-in Kensington High Street cycle tracks, as well as historic opposition to just about every cycling scheme going, saw his majority slashed to far below the combined Labour and Green opposition, and what appears to be a historic low. Across the capital, politicians who actively backed seemingly controversial schemes won and increased majorities, while marginal areas such as Barnet & Camden and Ealing & Hillingdon were retained by the parties that backed such schemes despite noise on social media around them. While across London, the Green Party did particularly well.
With a clear mandate to do more on the climate and active travel, LCC will next be pressing Sadiq hard on action. During the run-up to the election, Sadiq, while he didn’t sign our specific pledges in our #ClimateSafeStreets campaign, did commit to making all of London net carbon neutral by 2030. The implication, strongly, is that that will mean our transport (and by extension road transport) system – the area the Mayor has the greatest control over – will need to be carbon neutral too by 2030.
Sadiq’s statement implies his current Mayor’s Transport Strategy, aiming to get 80% of journeys made by public transport, walking and cycling by 2041, will be enough. We say it won’t be fast or bold enough – after all, the strategy was written and passed before the Mayor declared a climate emergency, and before the government’s Climate Change Committee accelerated and toughened national targets.
With a clear mandate behind him to act, we’ll be pushing Sadiq hard to beef up his plan to see London carbon neutral (including road transport) in just 9 years. And we’ll be starting to look also towards the local borough elections coming next year to ensure every bit of London also plays its part on the climate by matching fine words and climate emergency declarations to deeds, again by pointing out the clear mandate and responsibility to act May 6 delivered.
We’ll be holding London’s leaders, especially the Mayor, accountable for making cycling safe, enjoyable and accessible for leisure and mass transportation over the next few years.
The best way you can support the campaign for safe and enjoyable cycling is joining LCC as a member – or referring a friend to do so! You’ll receive a quarterly print update on the progress of the campaign, and it includes membership of your local LCC group, your support network for making better in your neighbourhood.
It’s understandable that for many people, this subject is very ‘big’ and complicated. So we’ve produced a four minute video that puts it into very relatable and human terms. If you could share this among your friends and family it would be enormously helpful and it makes it clear why our campaign is about so much more than just for cyclists ‘here and now.’
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