Southwark Local Elections 2014 – A guide for cycling voters

Jump to:

All People’s Party // Conservatives // Greens // Labour // LibDems // Others // UKIP

(Experiences gleaned volunteering for London Cycling Campaign / Southwark Cyclists – but this post still reflects my personal opinion, not LCC/SC policy or views. You can check which candidates support the cycling ask in your ward here – updates live.)

About ‘Space4Cycling’

This year, for the first time since 2010, every single councillor in Southwark is up for election/re-election. Southwark Council – not TfL – is responsible for more than 90% of the roads in Southwark, including a lot of the dangerous ones. So I’ve been doing a fair bit of volunteering for the #space4cycling campaign. You can read more about it in the link, and I’ll give my personal opinion of the parties further down, but in a nutshell, what is ‘Space4Cycling’? It means:

Making streets safer and more pleasant for all road users, specifically cyclists of all ages, sexes and abilities.

Small boy on cycle

This guy should be able to cycle safely in Southwark (Wikimedia; cc-by-sa)

Well, essentially every party political manifesto in history has made this ‘pledge’ and yet, oddly, we’re still not there. The blindingly obvious reason is that although this pledge is very praiseworthy, it’s also incredibly general. Seasoned campaigners know that the way to get politicians to ‘do something’ is to make that ‘something’ very specific indeed, so they can’t wriggle out of it later. That’s why party manifestos don’t (any longer) say things like ‘fewer hungry school children’, because the anti-poverty campaigners would rightly collar them for making a vague flaky commitment that’s hard to measure progress against. Instead manifesto pledges around ‘traditional big issues’ say things like ‘free school meals for all under-5s’ – the specificity reassures us, the voters, that the party in question is serious.

So now that cycling is a Big Issue Of The Day, London Cycling Campaign members (12,000 of us!) decided last year that we needed some highly specific pledges against which cycling voters could compare the parties. And that’s how the Space4Cycling campaign works:

Ask for a single, specific, badly-needed piece of physical cycling infrastructure in every electoral ward in London, and lobby all the candidates to support it so that the ‘ask’ gets built, no matter who gets elected.

Ballot box

(Wikimedia Commons; cc-by-sa)

The Parties

I volunteered for Southwark Cyclists / London Cycling Campaign, and we attempted to contact all the major parties. Even for a professional lobbying organisation it’s a big effort, and the number of candidates just in Southwark is staggering. But we tried. Individual candidates were encouraged to go on record as supporting the ‘ask’ in each ward, to demonstrate a concrete commitment to safer cycling. The ideal situation (happily realised in some London wards) is for 100% of candidates to support the ask. Where that happens we can rejoice as campaigners, because as far as cycling goes, the candidates’ commitment are identical and there’s nothing more we can add to inform your choice – as far as cycling goes.

You can check which candidates support the cycling ask in your ward here (live updating). You can also use this link to email your local candidates with one click – as 83,000+ Londoners have already done!

Unfortunately at the time of writing not all the candidates / parties have made this commitment. Some of them were hard to contact at all. Some we simply ran out of time for. And some, well, they’ve talked about cycling, but stopped short of supporting our asks. This puts us voters in a difficult position, as we have to try and judge some parties’ will to act on a critical issue of safety, the daily commute, based on some very vague information. Here’s my personal effort (I’ve included manifestos where I can find them).

All People’s Party – manifesto

APP are a new and small party focused on social issues. However I was able to speak to one candidate, who was broadly supportive of cycling issues. Their manifesto is short on cycling detail but they do have highly specific pledges, including repair of all potholes within 7 days. All candidates have signed up to Space4Cycling where fielded.

Specific support for asks: Complete support

Party line on safe cycling: No coherent policy, but specific where relevant.

Conservatives – manifesto

The picture for the Conservatives in Southwark is very mixed. Broadly speaking, those candidates in the north of the Borough (e.g. Bermondsey, Borough) ‘got’ the campaign, and those elsewhere across Southwark either opposed Space4Cycling, or hadn’t even heard of the campaign. Although I couldn’t find a canonical manifesto item on cycling, at the 11th hour they’ve issued these pledges, which apply to Bermondsey and Old Southwark, but not the South of the Borough. So as with Labour, I suggest you check the Space4Cycling site to see if your candidates are on board.

Specific support for asks: Bermondsey and Old Southwark – check for details

Party line on cycling: Promising, short some on specifics

Greens – manifesto | cycling policy

The Greens are the party most obviously associated with cycling, and Green politicians in government have backed that up with legislatory support and regulatory oversight of cycling issues in local, national and European government – but then all the major parties have politicians who do similar work (apart from UKIP). Unlike the 80s, the Greens no longer have a monopoly on sustainable transport as a policy issue.

Greens have not held control or balance of power in Southwark so we can’t judge them on that record, but a Green council in Brighton was one of the first to adopt citywide 20mph limits. All the candidates standing support the Space4Cycling asks, and their (London-wide) manifesto pledges infrastructure improvements on ‘… all roads where people live, work and shop’ (Manifesto, pp.13). This is a big promise (‘all’ roads?) but it is ambitious and specific, which is what cycle campaigners have been asking for, after all. They also have a cycling policy specific to Southwark.

Specific support for asks: Complete support

Party line on cycling: Promising and specific

Labour – manifesto

Labour took full control of the council in 2010. So, although this period includes the financial crisis and consequent spending cuts, it is fair to look back on their record as well as their manifesto. There have been some improvements to road maintenance, some improved ASLs (green boxes at traffic lights) and cycling programmes. But the killed / seriously injured (KSI) statistics show that cycling casualties have increased since 2010. Cyclists should be concerned about this trend. On a positive note, Southwark Labour councillors in office who ‘get’ cycling have engaged actively with Southwark Cycles, including the formation of a joint steering group.

Their manifesto pledges to ‘…deliver Southwark a safer cycling network’ (Manifesto, pp.7). This is a promising pledge but a vague one. Engagement continues, but unlike the Lib Dems or Green party, Labour haven’t given a blanket commitment to Space4Cycling across Southwark. For instance, although Brunswick Park candidates Mark Williams and Radha Burgess won’t support the Space4Cycling ask in Southampton Way, they have agreed to meet Southwark Cyclists in June, if elected, to discuss alternative ways to prevent rat-running there.

As with the Tories, I suggest you check the Space4Cycling site to see if your candidates are on board.

Specific support for asks: Some wards – check for details

Party line on cycling: Promising, short on specifics

LibDems – manifesto | cycling policy

The Lib Dems held control of the council in 2002-2006, and were equal-largest block (with Labour) from 2006-2010, sharing power with the Tories. So a lot of responsibility for infrastructure spending (or lack of) in this period might be laid at their door. However they have made the right ‘cycling noises’ throughout this campaign and were the only major party (along with the Greens) to make a blanket commitment to Space4Cycling in every ward in Southwark. They made this commitment very early on in their campaign.

Their manifesto also has pledges which are specific, including “introduce protected cycle lanes alongside all major roads in Southwark” (Manifesto, pp.8). Overall, of the two parties most likely to win control in Southwark, they have the strongest support on record and the most specific manifesto commitments. They also have a cycling policy specific to Southwark, which includes a 20% target modal share by 2025.

Specific support for asks: Complete support

Party line on cycling: Promising and specific


I wasn’t able to meet personally with any independent candidates, or any of the other parties, e.g. TUSC, BNP etc. I have a day job! However you can have a look for yourself which are supporting cycling in your ward at the space4cycling site. A lot of independents are…

Specific support for asks: n/a

Party line on safe cycling: n/a

UKIP – manifesto

No contact from UKIP, despite LCC/SC trying to. So we have to judge on their individual support, and party cycling policy. At the time of writing, no UKIP candidates are supporting any of the ward asks I’ve been monitoring. UKIP do have a policy on cycling, which you can read about. It’s more about enforcement against anti-social cycling (personally I’m against any anti-social behaviour, whether via bike, car or steam-roller, like most sensible adults), but there is very little commitment to safer cycling.

Specific support for asks: no

Party line on safe cycling: No coherent policy


So… how will Southwark vote? It’ll be interesting to find out.

This entry was posted in Activism, Blog, Cycling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.