On 27th March Birmingham cyclists discussed in the Council House "Does Birmingham need a Boris in order to get cycling infrastructure?"
Mustafa Arif, London CC, explained that with London split into different councils, with elected mayors. The personality and interests of the mayor are of vital importance: while a sympathetic mayor can help a cycling revolution take place, a mayor who is hostile to cycling can block all improvements.
Presumably a 'West Midlands' mayor would have a similar situation to the London mayor.
Mayors can lead to revolutionary changes, partly because they have a personal mandates from the electorate. For example, the congestion charge and the explosion of bus lanes in London happened because of the London mayor. Such changes are more difficult in councils without a mayor, because a consensus needs to be built among the councillors.
Jim Chisolm Jim Chisolm, Cambridge CC, described how in Cambridge, a city without an elected mayor, many of the councillors are members of the CCC and that many developers approach the CCC before submitting their planning proposals. By emgaging with councillors and developers the CCC has helped to show that good infrastucture leading to high cycling rates can be developed in Britain.
Both the speakers emphasised that success for cycle campaigners relies on political support. The poorly designed cycling infrastructure in the UK is not due to highway planners' lack of training - there are British transport consultants designing wonderful infrastructure on the continent. Political demands for increasing 'traffic' capacity normally far outweigh that for good cycle infrastructure. Vocal cycle campaign groups with a large membership and wide support are essential for building political support for cycling.
This is a more reliable solution for Birmingham than hoping for our own Boris.