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If Zac Thinks Electric Cars Will Abolish the Need for Buses, That Probably Means He's Never Been on One

23/11/2015 09:50 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

My Twitter timeline has just exploded with reaction to an extraordinary interview that Zac Goldsmith gave to Nick Ferrari this morning. The headline shock was the suggestion that a growth in the use of electric cars will make bus lanes obsolete within two or three years. This sounds like transport planning on the back of an envelope or perhaps the back of a Richmond dinner table napkin.

The Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, who has until now pitched himself as a Green Tory, was asked if he thought electric cars should be allowed to use bus lanes. He said he supported the idea of rewarding people for driving less polluting vehicles, so yes, that might work. He also suggested that possible new river crossings in East London should only be open to people in the right kind of cars.

He clearly believes that electric vehicles are an idea whose time is about to come and perhaps he is right. What is truly remarkable, however, is that he seems to believe this revolution will do away with the need for public transport altogether.

"Within two or three years there will be no point having bus lanes because everybody is going to be driving these things around," he said.

This seems amazingly out of touch even for the son of a billionaire. Apart from the fact that many Londoners cannot afford to buy any kind of car, let alone an electric one, Zac seems oblivious to the fact that electric cars will do nothing to address systemic transport problems: bringing down the risk of collision and reducing congestion.

Someone who wants to run London needs to understand that business as usual, with people defaulting to private car use, is just not an option. Even the City of London authorities get that, with their pronouncement this morning that the junction outside the Bank of England is "dysfunctional, dangerous, congested and polluting". They have announced plans to make that junction safer and better by preventing motorised vehicles using it, other than buses.

Zac's attempt to brand everyone who cycles as some kind of extremist is equally astounding. Making London safe for cycling benefits the economy. It will clean up our air and it will unclog our streets, which will make the city better for everyone, whether they cycle, walk or take public transport. If he does not understand the fury of those who have lost friends, family or colleagues to traffic collisions, he has much less empathy than I thought.

He told Ferrari that cycling campaign groups are "quite hard to deal with". He'd better look out for those of us campaigning for people on foot and for improved road justice. The issue on our streets is not just that people get killed or horrifically injured as they make their way to school or work, but also that our most traffic-dominated streets blight community interaction, fail local economies and contribute to twin public health crises caused by air pollution and physical inactivity.

The current Mayor has finally started to deliver spectacular world-class cycle infrastructure, but it is too little too late. By the end of his term, Boris Johnson will have delivered just five cycle superhighway routes out of the twelve he promised, and these are focused on central and inner London. It will fall to the next mayor to deliver the other seven and bring much needed benefits to outer London - but the supposedly Green Zac now seems unsure he wants to commit to that.

There is a growing understanding that the Sixties vision of urban motorways tearing through the centre of cities is not fit for purpose. London needs its next Mayor to be someone who loves the capital and wants it to be the best place possible for the majority of Londoners.

From a transport perspective that means investing in affordable, convenient public transport and making our streets great places to walk and cycle, not scrapping bus lanes and clogging our streets with electric cars.

Today's alarming glimpse of Zac's priorities suggests that he sees private car use as a given, that he is oblivious to inequality and he will do little to address the systemic transport problems facing our city.

Caroline Russell is the Green Party's local transport spokesperson and No 2 candidate for the Londonwide section of the London Assembly