Think of a mayor.
Perhaps Boris Johnson springs to mind? A man whose pre-Brexit legacy was to start a cycling revolution in London: ‘Boris bikes’ and cycle superhighways.
Maybe Rudy Giuliani? Famous for Zero Tolerance policing, which may have contributed to a remarkable decrease in crime in New York City (although evidence suggests it was coincidence rather than causation).
Or Bristol’s George Ferguson, whose trademark bright red trousers symbolised a colourful and controversial mayorship?
Hopefully you’ve also heard of Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris? Elected in 2014, it’s too soon to judge her legacy, but she has set excitingly ambitious goals for tackling congestion, pollution, climate change, and an acute housing shortage:
- Expanding Vélib (bicycle hire) and Autolib (car hire, including one-way), and starting Scootlib (scooter hire).
- Pedestrianising the Right Bank of the Seine.
- Phasing out diesel vehicles by 2020, and making public transport fully electric by 2030.
- Re-greening public spaces.
- Building 10,000 new homes per year, 70% of which to be affordable.
Cambridge and Peterborough could surely benefit from a bike hire scheme? If no-one locally sets one up, expect a Chinese company to step in – possibly Ofo, which is currently shipping 20,000 hire bikes to the UK.
We must follow Anne Hidalgo’s lead in tackling pollution and climate change head-on.
Currently a transport scheme in Cambridgeshire must meet one overarching strategic objective: Does it support Local Plan housing commitments? Pollution and climate change are much more important to the health and wellbeing of current and future generations.
Planning to reclaim busy road space for people is rarely a vote-winner.
But when people experience it, they love it.
There are a growing number of success stories, from Paris, Bristol, Madrid, New York, Bogota, Copenhagen, Groningen, Hamburg, Helsinki, Milan, et al.
These should embolden local politicians to expand pedestrianised areas and hold more car-free events like the Mill Road Winter Fair.
Anne Hidalgo and other leaders have shown how to set and achieve ambitious goals with clear communication, active engagement, experimentation and perseverance.
Candidates for mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough take note!
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 4 January 2017.