By Ryan McGreal
Published June 13, 2012
Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star's It's-Time-We-Understood-Cities columnist, writes about London Mayor Boris Johnson's recent visit to Toronto to promote his new book.
Johnson, the gregarious former Conservative Minister who was elected Mayor in 2008 and just won re-election this past May, is an avid cyclist who regularly rides his bike to work.
Hume quotes him speaking in Toronto about bicycles and bike lanes:
Bicycles civilize cities. Closing bike lanes; that's not what we're doing in London. In fact, I'm very proud that bicycle use went up 15 percent last year. Bicycles put the village back in the city. It's not a war on motorists. I'm a motorist, too. We're going to keep going, extending bicycle routes all the way out to the suburbs of London.
In Toronto, support for bike lanes, transit and walkability is often equated with "left-wing" politics and socialism. But Johnson, like so many successful mayors of great cities, recognizes that the essential urban advantage that makes cities great transcends partisanship:
My general view is that cities are where the world's going to be in the future. I believe in cities. People who live in cities live longer, they have better health and they are better educated. Only in cities can we find the praise we all seek. Cities are where we find other people to impress. Cities are fame's echo chamber.
You can watch Johnson enthuse on Letterman about subway investments, new hop-on-hop-off buses and a 6,000 vehicle bike-share program he calls "an entirely Communist scheme put in by a Conservative mayor - and it works beautifully well".