I love cycling, yes even in London... I grew up in Germany and I rode my first two-wheeler bike without stabilisers before my third birthday. The main reason I started cycling in London was because I kept running out of money for the bus. Once I got over the initial fear of being rammed against the pavement by a giant bus, I realised that it was not only free to travel around London but also much faster and more convenient.
The mayoral election is taking place in London this week and many of my friends have asked me who I'm voting for. I tell them I'm voting for the most bike friendly candidate and they keep asking "so that'd be Boris then right?" - No! it is not Boris!! Despite his bike friendly photo opportunities and his frequent declarations of love towards his bike, his policies paint a very different picture.
His bumbling and confused manner can be very charming and I even enjoyed his stint as the presenter of Have I got News for You, but these are not good reasons to vote for him as mayor. The Londoner's on Bikes campaign has put Jenny Jones first and Ken Livingstone second with Boris lagging in third place. The campaign is basing its recommendations on transport policy rather than their wider political views and the statistics prove how bad the streets have been for cyclists under Boris and how little he has done to improve road safety.
What about the Barclays Bike scheme you may say, well yes that could be seen a good idea. However, as much as the scheme has improved bike use in London and made it more accessible for tourists or commuters it has not improved the roads for cyclists. Many Londoners don't dare cycle simply because the roads are too dangerous, the scheme has done a lot to improve Boris' image but very little for those who cycle regularly. Londoners on Bikes spokesman Julian Sayarer said: "Today confirmed what those who ride bikes in London already know: highly visible and very expensive projects such as cycle hire have given Boris Johnson good publicity on cycling, but he has shown no interest in taking the steps which would be needed to save cyclists' lives."
At the Times cycle hustings Boris Johnson started a rant on cyclists describing them as "lycra clad or dreadlocked" accusing them of jumping traffic lights and feeling "morally superior". This wasn't particularly helpful in addressing the issue of road safety and was met with a great deal of hostility by the audience. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick pointed out that cyclists unlike motorists are not the main culprits in terms of causing road deaths.
Sixteen Londoners were killed while cycling last year, and 457 were seriously injured compared to no cycling fatalities in Paris in 2011. Boris' response to families of those killed on their bikes has been largely disinterested and at times even offensive.
So when people ask me who I am voting for, I have to explain to them that the most bike friendly candidate is not in fact Boris. All the evidence is out there, but the perception of him remains deeply inaccurate. This shows how we are taken in by spin regardless of the evidence or what his policies may show.
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