London Mayor Election – Voting with My Bike

Boris Johnson graffiti

Boris Johnson graffiti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 3 May, London will go the polls and elect a new mayor. Or re-elect the old one. Or re-elect the one who came before him perhaps.

As a London resident and cyclist, this election is of great interest to me.  Thankfully, a number of organisations have done the hard work and analysed the manifestos of the various candidates from a number of perspectives of interest to me.

In the last two months I have cycled over 350 kilometres on my commute, so in the upcoming election I will most definitely be voting with my bike.  Transport is one area the London mayor has massive control over, so the policies of the next mayor will have significant bearing on my life..

The London Cycling Campaign, of which I am a proud member, has been very vocal in the run up to the election. Being a charity, they do not go so far as advising people on how to vote, but they have conducted a review of the main candidates manifestoes, scoring each of the main candidates on their cycling policies.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jenny Jones of the Green Party comes out on top.  Ken Livingstone of the Labour Party was some way behind in second place, leaving Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party and Brian Paddick of the Liberal Democrat Party far behind.

The London Cycle Campaign is also running a longer term campaign under the banner ‘Love London, Go Dutch’; they say “We’re calling on the next Mayor of London to build continental-standard cycling infrastructure in the capital, so everyone has the freedom to cycle, whatever their route, and whatever their destination.” It was recently confirmed by the LCC that Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick and Ken Livingstone had all committed to taking forward all three of the LCC’s Go Dutch demands if they were elected. If only Boris were to commit, then we would be nearly certain of this happening in the next mayoral term.

Finally, as a show of the strenght of feeling with regard to cycle safety, the LCC organised the UK’s largest-ever bike ride supporting safer streets for cycling on Saturday 28 April.  The Big Ride, as it was called, attracted over 10,000 cyclists, despite atrocious weather.

The Cyclists in the City blog has been closely following the mayoral campaigning.  I have picked up a number of interesting tidbits from this.  Boris Johnson is the subject of much ire.  I found this particular post, entitled Jeremy Clarkson admits he loves Copenhagen-style cycling and implicitly rejects Boris Johnson’s cycling strategy, as fourth transport organisation slams Mayor’s transport policies. Why are London’s Conservatives so out of touch on cycling as a normal, safe, everyday mode of transport?, very interesting in highlighting some of the big problems with Boris’s transport policies.

Londoners on Bikes has been set up specifically in the run up to the election to mobilise the cyclist vote.  The organisation is seeking to engage with all of the main candidates for mayor to demand action on cycle safety.  The day before the election, they will recommend the candidate to vote for with the best plan to make London safe for bikes.  Their preliminary ranking, released a week ahead of the election, had Jenny Jones in first place, Ken Livingstone in second, Brian Paddick in third, and Boris way back in last place.

For me, this is not simply about making London a better place for cyclists.  I see it as just one fundamental part of making London a more livable city; a city fit for cyclists is also a city fit for pedestrians, a city fit for children to play in the streets, a city fit for outdoor eating and drinking, a city where you can open your window without being deafened by traffic noise and a city where thousands of people will not die prematurely due to the effects of air pollution.

interestingly, a study by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth looking at the green credentials of all the candidates from a broader sustainability perspective arrives at the same ranking as Londoners on Bikes – Jones, Livingstone, Paddick, Johnson.

Before campaigning for the election had begun I had thought that perhaps there isn’t much between the main candidates, particularly between the favourites Boris and Ken.  Having reviewed all this information I can see that there is some clear daylight between them, and also come compelling reasons to look at the other candidates too.  The voting system used also gives a great opportunity to register a first preference vote for one of the less likely candidates, while reserving a second preference for Boris or Ken, if that was your choice.  So when Thursday comes, I will be hopping on my bike to the local polling station and although it won’t be coming with me into the booth, I will certainly be voting with my bike.