Labour Party Member ashamed at lack of ambition and action

Labour Party member Chris Kenyon is proud of Labour controlled Islington Council’s record on social justice, such as being the first Living Wage landlord in the country. But ashamed of the total lack of ambition and action on active travel (i.e. walking and cycling). Here’s Chris Kenyon speaking at the Stop Killing Cyclists Nov 8th protest outside Islington Town Hall.

INTRO

Good evening to you all on the sad occasion marking the death of Jerome on our streets.

My name is Chris Kenyon and this is the sixth SKC event that I have attended… I am a local resident – brought up in Finsbury Park, I cycled to school as a teenager in the borough. I now live down the road in Angel where my children, aged 8 and 9 cycle and my parents, in their 70s, cycle in the borough everyday.

BACKGROUND

As one of the densest boroughs in central London we should be a byword for active travel ……. yet we are here again.

While segregated tracks are being built to our West by Camden, roads are being filtered to our east in Hackney and city workers now benefit from full kerb~protected infrastructure to our South….

…Islington has become a byword for activity without delivery & spending without change.

Cycle Islington have patiently engaged with the council over the last four years it has become clear that the council that lacks vision, is timid in decision-making and slow in action.

As a Labour party member, I am ashamed.

POLITICAL WILL

At it’s core, there is simply a lack of political will at the top of council leadership.

Let me be clear – this council is a remarkable one, dealing with appalling central government cuts and complex competing imperatives.

Leader Cllr Watts has been innovative on many fronts and yet on the topic of active Travel – Islington suffers from a paucity of ambition.

Cycling is seen as niche and a distraction from more important matters…

We are here today saying to our 47 Labour councillors that addressing the lack of cycling infra in the borough should be an issue of profound importance to them for three reasons:

SOCIAL JUSTICE

This borough rightly prides itself on addressing social justice issues…. just on Monday becoming the first Living wage landlord in the country. This is the council that commissioned the Fairness commission.

The link between protected cycling infrastructure and social justice could not be clearer.

Despite fare freezes, the reality is that a 16 year old’s travel card for zone 1-2 costs over £660 a year.

When that young person hits 18 even, with an apprentice discount, that jumps to £1350per annum.

Cycling is simply the most cost effective means to travel around the borough.

So the question we ask Cllr Watts is : Should our roads be as safe for a apprentice on a bike as they are for others in Ubers?

At its heart, a properly protected route is a profound symbol of equality – a statement that a resident on a £100 bike is important to the borough as a resident in a £10,000 car.

This is a statement that cannot be made by Islington council.

GENDER

We talk about gender equality…. If there was anything not predictable about Jerome’s death it was his gender. The previous 4 victims of the scandalous King’s Cross gyratory were women: Deep lee, Wendy Gay , Madeleine Rosie Wright .

So this is also a gender issue with women on bikes reporting near misses everyday on Islington’s roads.

HEALTH

We face a health crisis the like of which the NHS has never seen; based on epidemic of inactivity leading to Type lI Diabetes and other issues.

Active travel, the embedding of activity in everyday routines is the only solution.

The streets around us are the cure…..

Healthy streets is not a metaphor – it is literally the health of our own community.

These letters from 2015 are from the leaders of Bart’s NHS Health Trust, King’s, and Imperial and they call for kerb protected routes throughout the city.

How can councillors from the party of Bevan, a party that calls itself the safe custodian of the NHS not respond to what every medical organisation in the land is asking for…

We are here to say that it is not okay for the party that founded the welfare state and the NHS to ration active travel to the most bold in the community.

Victoria has shared with you her tragic experiences.

On 5th October 2015, Julie Dinsdale an NHS midwife, was also hit by a truck on Old Street.

Despite lots of promises….We are 24 months later!….. And still we wait for a proposal to go to public consultation.

It is no wonder that TfL say in private that Islington is slow and unambitious in its proposals.

CHANGE

This city changes all the time, our duty is to make that change for the better of all.

The site of young Ying Tao death at Bank now is bike and bus during the day.

The site of Janina Gehlan’s death at Farringdon is now kerb protected and has seen a 70% increase in cycling.

CONCLUSION

This is a great borough, one that I am proud to call home… but this present course is not acceptable….

Sadiq Khan, a Labour Mayor has committed…… committed to tripling kerb protected lanes by the end of his mayoralty in the city.

Val Shawcross has a budget of £100Ms for cycling over the next 10 years.

We expect Islington to take its commitment to social justice, to diversity in cycling and the NHS seriously.

1 – Stop the abdication of responsibility. It’s not okay to simply say these are TfL routes and we have no influence. We demand call on Islington to work with TfL to make Old street and other major TfL Roads in the borough accessible to all.

2- We demand that QuietWays are taken seriously. Traffic filtering and reduced space for on street car parking must be delivered on existing and future routes.

3- We expect to see two way access for bikes on one way streets and modal filtering as the norm.

We call for this borough to become a beacon of understanding that safe cycling is at the heart of any social justice & health agenda.

Note: The written speech above is very slightly different from the speech delivered on the night and on the video.