London’s transport commissioner Mike Brown said last night that roads were not just for cars but for people, too. Roads have “place” and “movement” functions, he said. Pointedly, and in his first major pronouncement on cycling since becoming commissioner last year, he also had a strong message for those individuals and groups who wish to see fewer people on bikes, not more.
“I am a huge defender of our Cycle Superhighways,” he told an assembled audience of the great and good in transport and design. Prominent developers were in the audience as were leading architects and important people from the City. And just so none of those present could be in any doubt about his strength of commitment to “our” cycling infrastructure he stressed that those opposed to providing more protection for cyclists in London were “wrong”.
“Although [the Cycle Superhighways] may reduce some road space for motorised vehicles I have to tell you, to avoid a single death or serious injury for cyclists makes all that investment worthwhile,” said commissioner Brown.
“Those who are critical of it, I have to tell you, I think you’re wrong.”
To perhaps the consternation of some, he added: “Cycling will continue to grow.”
Brown was giving the keynote speech at the opening of Streets Ahead, a month-long exhibition on the future of London’s roads staged by New London Architecture, an influential think-forum and research organisation. The exhibition is being held in NLA’s posh London HQ. Last night was the preview evening; Brown joked that nobody should mention anything about the exhibition until it was officially opened by Boris Johnson this weekend. At least I hope it was a joke because I tweeted madly from the event, spurning the Italian wine and beer.
I tweeted some pix, and below I’ve embedded a whole load more. As you can see, cycling plays a prominent role in the exhibition which comes as no surprise really as the chair of New London Architecture is architectural writer Peter Murray, a not-at-all-secret cyclist. (At a meeting we both attended at the Department for Transport the day before the Streets Ahead opening I learned that Murray had done what I did at the Velocity conference in Nantes last year, and that’s count the number of active-travel proponents riding on the expo’s escalators rather than bounding up.)
Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, told me it was “massively heartening” to hear commissioner Brown be so positive about the future of cycling in London.
“We have a crunch coming,” said Sinha. “There’s predicted to be a huge growth London’s population, and cycling is one of the ways we’ll be able to keep this city moving. The new infrastructure isn’t just about safety, it’s about planning our city for the future.”
Thanks to Peter Murray for introducing me to Mike Brown – I was introduced as the author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, the predecessor to Bike Boom. When Brown said he was interested in the history of London’s roads (which also features as part of Streets Ahead) I gave him a copy of the book which he asked me to sign. I have no idea whether commissioner Brown is a cyclist so instead of writing “Keep pedalling” as I often do when signing books, I wrote “Keep rolling”, which covers most transport modes.
Streets Ahead: The future of London’s roads
Thursday 28 January – Wednesday 24 February 2016
As part of Streets Ahead NLA is staging lunchtime soapbox talks every Friday in February. The discussion on 12th February is on the future of cycling.