Things that irritate me No. 4 - Politicians

I try not to discuss politics on the blog as it is the easiest way to encourage a barrage of abuse and criticism. I know this from on the odd occasion of having a go at the Mayor of London on Twitter when the Jubilee line isn't working properly (again). His faithful are quick to defend and although he isn't directly responsible for the maintenance nor does he do it, at the end of the day it is his responsibility overall to ensure London is keep moving and us Londoners do not have to endure endless delays and closures (which do appear to have increased under the current administration).

Generally, I have a dislike for politicians. None of the parties in my mind seem to be capable of promising something during a manifesto and sticking to it (The Lib Dems demonstrated an outstanding case for this after going back on their tuition fee stance to support the Conservative motion to triple fees for students) and all seem to change their stance on things depending on what is hot with the public that week.

Hence why I take manifestos are something I generally take with a pinch of salt. They promise lots but often fail to deliver. Why they can't be honest from the start I don't know. Personally I think a lot of people would be more likely to vote for someone who was honest rather than having to take a gamble on who is lying least come each election, or back whoever the national media are backing.

I digress slightly. What spurred me to write this post and what really irritates me are politicians who throw their toys out the pram when things don't go their way. This was demonstrated yesterday by the Conservative London Assembly Members when they walked out of the Greater London Assembly right before a debate on a 20mph limit on Blackfriars bridge.

The background to the Blackfriars bridge issue is thus - Blackfriars Station is currently under redevelopment and as a result the road bridge is also being redesigned to take into account additional footfall from passengers using the station.

The original plans submitted by Transport for London (TFL) included an additional lane of motor traffic, the removal of a cycle lane and not much in the way of additional crossings for pedestrians.

After a number of responses from disgruntled cyclists (myself included) the removed cycle lane was reinstated but no additional provisions to make cycling across the bridge safer were introduced. TFL also proposed to reinstate the 30mph speed limit which had been reduced to 20mph during road works on the bridge and junction on the north side of the river.

Personally I find cycling over the bridge quite scary. I'm lucky in that I have a road racer bike therefore I can at time keep a similar pace to the traffic through the 20mph zone. As I never have to turn right at any point from travelling North to South of the bridge, I never have to worry about cutting across the numerous lanes of traffic. Sadly, some cyclists do need to do so and sometimes with serious consequences such as Dr Clare Gerada experienced recently.

So in short - the bridge is not particularly safe for cyclists (or pedestrians for that matter) and a fair proportion of the London Assembly wished to debate the speed limit on the bridge in order to try and make it safer for everyone using it.

The Conservative members of the London Assembly yesterday walked out of the Greater London Assembly leaving the meeting inquorate and thus unable to debate the issue or vote on it.

The Conservatives claim the reason they walked out was 'part of ongoing action that the group is taking in response to the Labour, Lib Dem and Green party groups voting en-block to prevent Conservatives from taking up the proportional number of committee chairmanships, thus depriving the 40% of Londoners who voted for us a voice.'

So the other 60% don't deserve a voice then?

Even more galling through this action is from my point of view the association of the Mayor. Boris Johnson is a Conservative. He is the Mayor. He claims to be pro-cycling and has a dream to turn London into a cycling city.

I have my own doubts on whether or not Boris is actually pro-cycling or merely trying to look as though he is but not actually doing anything worthwhile to enhance the safety of cyclists in London (this could be a whole other irritated post on cycle superhighways so I'll save my rant for another day). But in my mind the Conservative AM's have scored Boris a bit of an own goal here. The majority of the Assembly wanted to pass the motion for a 20mph limit on the bridge and even a major motoring association has said the bridge needs to be improved for cyclists.

Politicians therefore irritate me when they cannot be fair and vote democratically on an issue that is important because they might lose. What exactly are they there for in the first place if not to vote on keys issues our behalf? Personally if any of the Conservative AM's were claiming to represent me I would be giving them a piece of my mind.

As for the bridge, in my honest opinion although the 20mph limit would be good I don't believe it would go far enough to offer increased safety for cyclists. TFL needs to look more at how roads could be improved for the benefit of all using them. I can think or a number of examples on my commute where the introduction of a cycle lane could assist cyclists getting around the capital without being detrimental to cars on the same road.

And for anyone reading this and thinking I am anti-motorist, I drive too but I have never seen the point in driving in London unless I am trying to get out the other side and onto a motorway (and even then, if trains were cheaper I would be more inclined to use them than the car. Alas for now driving still works out cheaper for longer journeys). The bike for me is much quicker for getting around London.

But as a cyclist, motorist and pedestrian at times, I would like to think that those in power who make decisions on how safe my journey around London on all modes of transport will be are debating and voting fairly on how this can be achieved rather than protesting and sulking because everyone else is ganging up on them.

Ok - so there will never be a Utopian society where everyone agrees what is right and what should be done. We are never all going to like whoever is in power either locally or nationally but in the absence of that can we at least discuss the issues that are raised and ensure we are making decisions based on evidence?

One can only hope!

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