It’s emerged today – slightly earlier than planned – that I’ve been offered a job as Boris Johnson’s cycling commissioner. It’s part-time; I’ll continue in my day job, covering national and international news for the Telegraph, though I will no longer be called London Editor or cover any matter related to City Hall or Boris Johnson.
I’m very pleased to be doing this at a time when London cycling stands on the cusp of quite ambitious change. As perhaps the foremost cycling blogger in London, Danny Williams, was kind enough to say, I have been a “big supporter” and long-term advocate of London cycling.
In 2007, at the Standard, I devised and led the newspaper’s six-month campaign for safer cycling which foreshadowed many of the themes of subsequent media campaigns. One of our main demands was for segregated bike lanes, several years before this became mainstream or an explicit objective for most cycle lobby groups.
I’ve never driven a car in my life and nearly all my travel in London is by bike. I cycle about 100 miles a week in the capital, and have cycled in every borough. I understand cycling provision from a cyclist’s point of view. Just as importantly, as a fairly recent convert, cycling since 2006, I understand how you can go from being a totally unfit slob who does no exercise to becoming a daily cyclist whose life has vastly improved as a result, because I have taken that journey. I know what got me cycling, what nearly put me off cycling, and what ultimately kept me cycling because I have been through that process.
At the same time, I believe that the way to win arguments is to stress what better cycle facilities can do for London as a whole – reducing air pollution and crowding on the Tube, for example – rather than just for cyclists.
I’ve been discussing this with TfL and the mayor’s office for a while. In the next few weeks, you will see the launch of a whole set of ambitious cycling policies that we have been working on. You’re already seeing, I hope, the beginnings. Last week TfL unveiled London’s first fully-segregated cycle track, on Stratford High Street, and cancelled an unsatisfactory scheme at Lambeth Bridge roundabout which had attracted a lot of criticism from cyclists. There is more to come.