London Mayor Boris Johnson: Bicycles Civilize Cities

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".

Christopher Hume will be speaking in Hamilton this Thursday at LIUNA Station in an event organized by Renew Hamilton.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 13:48:14

Good excuse to revisit a classic!

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By oinks (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 14:11:02 in reply to Comment 78457

On the other hand...

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 14:02:26

I hope Hume doesn't hold back on Thursday...not that anyone from city hall will be there to hear him.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 07:33:32

I was at this, last autumn:

(While it was a great evening, I was rather surprised at who wasn't in attendance.)

Mr. Hume is a tremendous resource all by his lonesome. While the presentation he gave at the Football Hall of Fame was unquestionably insightful, I felt that he could have used a moderator, a contrasting voice, just about anything to delineate what he was there to offer up. (This is not meant so much as a negative vote against someone who I have joyously written about on my blog, but merely an observation based on wanting to make the most of these opportunities.) So Ihope that the format at the LIUNA event provides more creative 'friction'.

Were I in the city, I'd be wanting to go tonight. I envy all those who are attending.

As for "...not that anyone from city hall will be there to hear him," you're probably right. But once again, I see things differently: I'm equally saddened by the fact that, with the ticket price alone, '...not that many from the actual communities that can provide the real impetus for change will be there to hear him.'

Amidst the subsequent booing and downvoting, allow me to salute the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce's 'Renew Hamilton's initiative for creating this series...while hoping for more purely 'public' opportunities for learning and discourse.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 14, 2012 at 08:49:35

I heard a bit of Mr. Johnson on Radio One the other morning - God in heavens, but he was a treat: a candid politician with a sense of humour and opinions which were actually surprises.

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