Walking and cycling commissioner

MQT on 2017-01-18
Session date: 
January 18, 2017
Question By: 
Caroline Russell
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What will your new walking and cycling commissioner achieve in his first 100 days?


Answer for Walking and cycling commissioner

Answer for Walking and cycling commissioner

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  Dr Will Norman, my new Walking and Cycling Commissioner, will lead, deliver and promote active travel in London.  He will be responsible to the Deputy Mayor for Transport and will help to deliver my pledge to get more Londoners active by making cycling and walking easier and more appealing both for individual trips and as part of public transport journeys and by supporting my vision to create healthy streets.


An important part of this will be to consider the whole range of what makes streets work for people rather than focusing too heavily on one mode of transport.  The things that people who are cycling need from London’s streets are by and large the same things that people who are working and people who are using public transport need: safe, quiet, clean and attractive places that are not dominated by motorised traffic.  That is what the healthy streets approach is all about.  Indeed, to quote from your recent report, Assembly Member Russell, healthy streets is about “prioritising people”.


I should add that whilst I do acknowledge the progress made by the previous administration, including the delivery of segregated cycle lanes, at times there was an unnecessarily confrontational approach towards stakeholders during the delivery of such schemes.  I am confident that we can reset the relationships with the key stakeholders and Will Norman is ready to play a crucial role in this.  As an immediate priority, it will be for TfL, the London boroughs, businesses and key interest groups to identify challenges and agree with partners how the healthy streets vision can be achieved.


Will is an expert on behavioural change and active travel, as well as being extremely knowledgeable about walking and cycling challenges in London.  Three things he will be working on straight away will be to finalise a programme of improvements planned to be delivered in 2017/18 that will improve conditions for walking and cycling and reducing road danger; secondly, input into my new draft Transport Strategy to ensure we benefit from his knowledge on walking and cycling; and thirdly, look at how we can encourage more Londoners to travel actively and realise the health benefits of this simple lifestyle change.


Caroline Russell AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor, and thank you also for your letter and your very detailed response to my report, which I received just this morning.


As an anthropologist, Will [Norman] is knowledgeable about behavioural change and has applied that to encouraging sports participation.  In his new role, he needs to help Londoners bring more walking and cycling into their everyday journeys.  How do you expect him to go about that shift to everyday journeys?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the people I missed in relation to the key stakeholders we have to speak to is the Assembly Members and campaigners.  You understand the challenges there are.


What I do not want is for there to be confrontation.  That is why that the job that Will has is Walking and Cycling Commissioner.  It cannot be cyclists versus pedestrians.  Part of it is the experience he has from the work he did in his current job and also part of it is learning the lessons from how other cities have manage to nudge people to change behaviour, carrots and incentives.  We have to use all of those things.


Caroline Russell AM:  It is really encouraging to hear you talking about not having confrontation because that is part of the key to delivering all of this.


He has experience of the kinds of soft measures that were very effective here in London during the Olympics when, following travel advice, lots of people made significant changes to the way that they get around.  Will also needs to be advocating for TfL to build the right infrastructure: the new bike lanes, the wider pavements, the better crossings.


How will you ask the new Commissioner to prioritise his attention between the soft behavioural change and the hard infrastructural measures?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The important thing is that, look, the choice I could have taken was to have a political appointee doing this job, but what we did instead was to get the best person for the job.  There was an open advert and more than 150 people applied.  He is the best person for the job.  He has the resources backing him up.  He and Val [Valerie Shawcross CBE, Deputy Mayor for Transport] have the resources.  You will have seen the figures in the draft budget, which I hope will be approved by the Assembly.


Will is going to be working with local authorities as well.  One of the ambitions we have is to have more Quietways.  The reality is that that means working in partnership with local authorities and learning the lessons from the three Mini-Hollands going forward.


We have to use all of the tools in our toolkit to accelerate our changing lifestyles.  Part of it is the recognition that as our population grows from 8.6 million now to 9 million in 2020 and 10 million in 2030, we need modal shift.  That is why we need to work together to try to resolve that.  You are right that we have to be less confrontational.


Caroline Russell AM:  Yes, I totally agree on that, obviously.  There are lots of Londoners who have been waiting for this appointment for a very long time.  There are communities particularly in outer London that are struggling with very traffic-dominated environments like along the North Circular in Brentford by the A4.  There are people in Enfield I visited recently who have a lot of really good ideas about the kind of help that they need to travel less by car.


Will you ask Will [Norman] to get out there and speak to the people who might have some good ideas to help him?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.  A question later on from Assembly Member Shah is about outer London and cycling.  One of the big things we have to always be careful about is not just focusing on zone 1.  Zone 1 is very important but the other zones matter as well.  There is congestion in outer London.  You are absolutely right.  We talked about concerns about bus usage.  Congestion occurs all across London.  Whilst of course pedestrianising Oxford Street is a priority for us for very good reasons and we are working closely with the Council, the businesses and the residents there, there are things we can do in outer London as well.  The good news is that the leaders of the councils in outer London get it.  I was in Bexley last week with Assembly Member Bacon.  There is a need to address congestion all across London.


Caroline Russell AM:  Fantastic.  Finally, your first year in office is going to coincide with Will Norman’s first 100 days in his role.  What do you hope to have done to deliver healthy streets by that time?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  When I was thinking about how to answer your question, one of the things I wanted to say is that we cannot put artificial deadlines on in relation to the destination.  The destination is for more people to walk and cycle.  If we artificially have a target of 100 days, it means that we are inadvertently trying to retrofit everything into the first 100 days.  We need to change people’s behaviour and we need to incentivise that.


At the same time, one of the reasons I am so passionate - as, indeed, you are - about addressing air quality is that we do not want inadvertently to encourage people to cycle and walk and be breathing in poisonous air.  That is why it is all joined up.  That is why the policies about air quality are linked to transport, walking and cycling being a key area, but also making sure we get the most polluting cars off the road.  Scaremongering with misleading figures helps nobody.


Caroline Russell AM:  Indeed.  I am out of time and so I am going to have to leave it there.