Archive for the 'Politics' Category

‘Jewish Manifesto’ calls for ‘faster and safer cycle network’

Just spotted this in the Transport section of the London Jewish Forum‘s Manifesto for the 2012 London Mayoral election:

10. Year of the Bike

11. Big Green Jewish – a coalition of organisations in the Jewish Community concerned about environmental issues have declared 2012 the ‘Year of the Bike’. Tackling the impact of transport on the environment more generally, they are campaigning within the community to take pledges on decreasing their carbon footprints by making greener transport decisions, including taking up cycling as a viable and safe alternative when commuting.

12. The proposed Cycle Superhighway 11, running from Marylebone will stop at border of Camden and Barnet, avoiding the Brent Cross Cricklewood development, and not crossing the North Circular, the biggest physical barrier to cycling in North West London. TfL should seriously consider extending the route of CS11 to ensure that residents in Barnet can benefit from better access to a safe and faster cycle network.

I notice that they have Breakfast meetings organised with each of the main Mayoral candidates for Jewish Londoners to come and express their concerns directly. Perhaps one or two of my Jewish readers might wish to attend and and press the case for cycling?

The first of LJF’s candidates breakfasts is on 17 April with Boris Johnson in Golders Green. You can register for the breakfast with Boris and find the dates for the other candidates on the LJF web site.

You may also be interested in the Rabbi Relay Ride.

Finally a belated ‘Chag Pesach Sameach’ to my Jewish readers!

Flashride tomorrow (Friday) 0830am: Why we need to draw a line in the sand over Blackfriars

Blackfriars bridge is a watershed. Despite the hositle environment, there are more bicycles on it in rush hour than any other form of transport and there’s a major opportunity to improve conditions as part of the Crossrail work in the area. Yet unbelievably instead TfL decide to make things even worse for cycling! If not here, then where? If not now then when? Read the background here and join us on the #flashride tomorrow (Fri 20 May) morning at 0830. We’ll be on the south side of the Bridge, outside the Doggett’s pub. Follow @london_cycling for updates.

Since I took over the chairmanship of LCC‘s Campaigns Committee I have found there has been one single, recurring theme frustrating many of our objectives: Transport for London, the quango responsible for the major road network in London is drunk on maximising space for cars at the exclusion of all other road users. Now in the right circumstances (e.g. motorways on the outskirts of Greater London) that might well be appropriate. However, on streets in which people, live, work, shop and play that cannot be the case. Our streets must be liveable places where it is pleasant to walk, cycle or just hang out – not ghettos in subservience to a trunk road passing through them. Bridges are particularly important as there aren’t many options to cross the River. As our Chief Executive, Ashok Sinha says “The choice for cyclists shouldn’t be to navigate through a dangerous junction or take a boat.”

Despite the Mayor’s vision of a cyclised city, Transport for London are failing to delivery the much-vaunted ‘Cycling Revolution‘ because they simply refuse to make space available for quality cycling facilities. Next week the London Cycling Campaign will launch its biggest ever democratic exercise to select a single-issue campaign demand for the 2012 Mayoral election. Not a single one of the four options we’ll be asking our members to vote on is attainable without the political will to make road space available to cycling. That’s why, whilst the menial back-tracking by TfL this last week is welcome we must now make a stand and press for a more equitable allocation of road space.

I hope you will join us on Blackfriars bridge tomorrow morning. If you feel as strongly as we do perhaps you’d consider joining LCC and help us in our mission to achieve a world class cycling city. If nothing else, you’ll get to vote on our headline demand for the next Mayor (and discounts at virtually all good local bike shops).

Fixed term parliaments: whether 4 years or 5 we need a single political cycle

This evening, I caught the end of the debate on the third reading of the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill in the House of Commons, on BBC Parliament. Whilst the government carried the vote Clegg did seem to fumble on the issue of periodic clashes between future elections to the UK parliament and elections to devolved parliaments and assemblies.

The arguments for and against both the principle and length of fixed term parliaments have been well exercised. Personally I am in favour as I think it is perverse for the Prime Minister to be able to call an election whenever they feel it will benefit them – even if there have been well-cited examples of them making the wrong call. I also prefer 4 years (as it seems do most academics and other constitutional experts) rather than 5 but I’m relatively relaxed about that.

The key issue that the government does need to address, and which I hope the Lords will force them to give due consideration to, is that the country really needs a shared political cycle. Many of the MPs making the case for 4 years raised the point that we could align elections so that elections to parliament and devolved bodies were in different years. The key point here is not the period but the principle that all elections (councils, mayors, police commissioners, devolved bodies as well as parliament) have the same period. If the government really believe that 5 years is a better period than 4, then they should bring forward legislation to put all other elections on a 5 year cycle too.

The overwhelming advantage of a 4 year cycle is that all other elections in the UK (bar those to the European Parliament, which operates on a 5 year cycle) are already on a 4 year cycle. Together with it being the norm (as opposed to the maximum) for parliamentary terms, this means that a 4 year fixed term cycle would bring the least disruption at a time when all public servants have much else to focus their time on.

There is a related problem with the bill. It contains provision for early elections, which is understandable. However, following an early election the next election takes place 5 years later, messing up the cycle. An early election should be a special election for the remainder of the parliamentary term so as to maintain the cycle. Of course there can be a proviso that if there less than, for example, one year, of the parliamentary term remaining, then the early election covers the next parliamentary term – and so the subsequently elected parliament would sit for an extra year. (That’s another reason for keeping the fixed term to 4 years, btw, so that in early election circumstances the maximum would be 5, as now, not 6).

4 years or 5, it’s the government’s call. But they should pick one and align everything to it.

Uninspiring, nebulous drivel – Barnet’s “Sustainable Community Strategy”

This evening I attended a Barnet Civic Network event at North London Business Park. It was new to me but many of those present (generally greying men) complained about the participation being dominated by the “usual suspects”.

The agenda was a consultation of the “Vision”, “Values”, and “Priorities” of Barnet’s Sustainable Community Strategy for 2010-2020. The values were okay and the priorities weren’t too bad but there was nothing inspirational. It was mostly nebulous waffle. The real problem was the dearth of any real vision. The supposed vision statement consisted of tired old phrases the simply described the status quo (good schools, low crime, etc.). I also couldn’t see anything remotely addressing the word “sustainable”.

Of course Barnet already has a 10 year sustainable community strategy, adopted in 2008. Cllr Robert Roms explained that we needed a new one now because much had changed since 2008 (new government, financial crisis, etc.) though when I asked what in the proposed strategy was actually different from 2008 the lead he was somewhat stumped for an answer! A couple of people on my table commented they had seen the same stuff 10 or 15 years ago. A quick web search now I’ve got home shows there was also a 10 year strategy agreed in 2006 which was also much the same.

Cllr Rams did seem keen to impress that he had some sort of vision, though I couldn’t quite discern what it was. He did ask me to get in touch with him to discuss further so I’ll email him and give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But this uninspiring, nebulous technocratic waffle is just another reminder of how hollow Town Halls have become.

An elected Mayor would bring focus and profile to civic leadership that would attract higher calibre politicians and also encourage them to be braver. Certainly Barnet needs a shake-up.