Published: December 1, 2011
by TOM FOOT
KEN Livingstone has told how he fears for the thousands of cyclists who use “Boris Bikes” without wearing a helmet.
The former London mayor – who started the ball rolling on the bike-hire scheme when he was running City Hall in 2007 – said it was “always the plan” to include helmets in the London Cycle Hire Scheme.
Speaking to the New Journal during a visit to Camden on Monday he said: “I make sure when my kids are on a bike they have a helmet on.
“It was always the plan that you should make certain that people who are cycling have got a helmet. You almost want to have a way where the helmet is actually chained to the bike, so people who don’t bring one can have one.”
A Department of Transport spokeswoman said: “Our position is that cyclists should wear helmets, but it is up to the cyclist to decide.”
The hire scheme website is fronted by cartoon-style images of cyclists with helmet-like headpieces similar to bowler hats or turbans.
Lib Dem councillor Paul Braithwaite, Camden’s “cycling champion”, said: “When I anticipate I’m going to get on a Barclays bike, I carry a helmet. But in practical terms, I don’t see how it could be done. Where you would store them? There’s the issue of head lice. It is not practical.”
Mr Livingstone was speaking during a visit to the King’s Cross junction where 24-year-old cyclist Deep Lee died under under the wheels of a HGV two months ago. The case had added to the pressure on Mr Johnson and Transport for London to look again at cycling safety.
Mr Livingstone said the Euston Road junction with Gray’s Inn Road and York Way was “one of the worst in London”, and claimed his political nemesis Mr Johnson, who oversees TfL, was being “ridiculous” for not making it his “top priority”.
“There is nowhere where cyclists have priority over here,” said Mr Livingstone. He said that he was planning to create an extra lane on Euston Road and make more room for cyclists before he was ousted by Mr Johnson in 2008.
A spokesman for TfL said its plans to alter the junction had been put under review by Mr Johnson following the death of two cyclists in Bow.
Mr Livingstone also held a rally at the Camden Centre last Wednesday and spoke to supporters again at Haverstock School on Monday night.
TESSA Jowell looked out at the crowd in the Camden Centre and told them: “Remember, it’s not Boris or Boris Johnson from now on – it is Tory Boris Johnson.”
And then the packed hall repeated the mantra back to her: “It’s Tory Boris Johnson”.
Ms Jowell, the former Camden councillor who went on to become a key figure in Tony Blair’s cabinets, was preparing them for Ken Livingstone’s bid to win back the job of Mayor of London next year.
She warned campaign organisers that his opponent would try warm photoshoots to help him win another term next May. She said Labour needed to expose him as a “traditional Tory” and fight against a Conservative campaign which would be laden with celebrity endorsements and more money spent on it.
She was speaking at at a rally for Mr Livingstone last Wednesday night alongside the scourge of News International Tom Watson MP, Daily Star Sunday columnist Sally Bercow and Rowenna Davis, a Guardian journalist and Labour councillor in south London.
The theme of the evening was Mr Livingstone's promise to cut the cost of transport in London.
During his own speech, he took credit for improvements to the London Overground line which runs through Camden Town, which has increased capacity and is running with more trains.