Friday, 18 January 2013

Andrew Gilligan appointed London's Cycle Commissioner

EDIT (26/3/13) - The news early this month of City Hall's impressive, radical, and innovative 'Cycling Vision for London' (which, according to the BBC's Tom Edwards, was directly precipitated by cycle bloggers - who knew?!) has heartily confirmed my faith in Andrew Gilligan's ability to deliver in his role as Boris Johnson's Cycling Commissioner.

Gilligan's performance a few days later on the BBC's Sunday Politics Show (10/3/13) defending his new cycle infrastructure projects was especially impressive, as was the fact that segregated cycle tracks were accepted as the 'ideal solution' not only by Gilligan, but also by his interviewer and the other politicians on the show. This game-change in thinking about cycle safety and infrastructure (and the way the two are inextricably linked) clearly has a lot to do with the ambitious scope of the Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan's new plan. View the full interview here on YouTube.

There is also a fantastic recording of Andrew Gilligan's talk and Q&A at the first London Cycling Campaign Policy Forum (8/4/2013) which you can listen to or download (right click on the link and then click 'Save Link As...') here.


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It emerged yesterday that Andrew Gilligan, a journalist working at The Telegraph has been made Boris Johnson's cycling advisor. Some have attacked the 'cronyism' in this appointment - since Mr Johnson and Mr Gilligan have a history of previous employment together and share similar political views - however, I personally would argue that Gilligan will (hopefully) be a very successful Cycling Czar for London.

Andrew Gilligan cycles about 100 miles a week in London. He can't drive either.
Yes, he is not an 'expert'. But you hardly need to be an expert on cycling to realise that the current infrastructure in place in London is either non-existent or crap, and that it could be radically improved relatively easy.

What he is, is a journalist who understands politics. Because politics (rather than new academic research) is the primary barrier to installing good cycle infrastructure, I would argue that Gilligan's training in journalism (and a history degree) is actually exactly what he needs if he's going to bring real change to London.

Similarly, the fact Gilligan is a firm support of Boris Johnson is a good thing since Boris will need a united front behind him if he's going to successfully convince anti-cycling councils like Westminster and the City of London to scrap ridiculous policies like road-narrowing without installing bike lanes. TfL only run 5% of London's roads. Cycle-toxic London MPs like Mark Field and Kate Hoey are not going to change their minds about opposing segregated lanes for cyclists if Johnson and Gilligan are bickering with each other about London's housing policy.

Moreover, Gilligan comments very intelligently on his Telegraph blog:


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.


This man understands better than most the political realities of implementing the fantastic cycling policies that organisations like the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) come up with.

This is exactly the kind of person we want organising London's Cycling Plan at the highest level.

We need someone with the pragmatism to actually make change happen and, where necessary, compromise in order to get the best available deal for cyclists. We need someone who understands London's politics. And, we need someone who will work with the Mayor and TfL (rather than against them).

All in all, Gilligan appears to be a pretty good choice.