London's mayor is serious about cycling. Sadiq Khan, who took office in May this year, has secured almost a billion dollars to spend on cycling over the next five years. That works out to almost $22 per person per year. Remarkably, this is double what bike-enthusiast Boris Johnson, the previous mayor, managed to spend.
"By spending £770 million over the course of the next TfL Business Plan, we’ll now be spending the same per head as Denmark and the Netherlands—places famous around the world for their cycling," said Khan in a statement.
Khan knows that cycling is essential for cleaning up London's filthy air, and that, if you are to reduce cars, there has to be a great alternative. Khan's plan is to have London's commuters make 1.5 million bike journeys each day by 2026, and he'll try to achieve that not only by installing new bike lanes, including two new Cycle Superhighways, but by adding new pedestrian crossings, and increasing sidewalk space. The message is fairly clear—cars will longer enjoy special treatment in the capital.
The money comes straight out of the Transport for London (TfL) budget, which pays for all of London's transport, including the Tube. Thus, this new cycling money, which takes 5.5% of that budget (the previous mayor spent 2.4%), takes money away from other options.
London is huge, and getting across it by bike is hard. The Cycle Superhighways, which let cyclists travel long distances with minimal interference from other traffic, make bikes a viable long-distance alternative. Cycle Superhighway 4 will run from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, and Cycle Superhighway 9 will run from Olympia in the West, to Hounslow, in the even-more-West. The current Highways will also be extended or finished.
"I said in my manifesto that I’d be the most pro-cycling mayor London has ever had," said Khan. "Making cycling safe and easier can provide huge benefits for us all – improving our health, cleaning up our toxic air, and helping tackle congestion."
Finally, it seems that cars are on their way out of our cities. It'll take a while, to be sure, but if both Paris and London can turn so anti-car in such a relatively short time, it proves what we've been saying all along: that it's political will, and the guts to push against car drivers, that will change our cities. And that's exactly what's happening here, with London's Khan, and Paris' Anne Hidalgo.