Metro Mayor Tim Bowles is failing us
Our friends at Cycle Bath have been taking the lead locally in attempting to engage the WECA Mayor Tim Bowles. Now frustration levels have reached boiling point as we watch helplessly as other metro mayors power ahead. The words ‘chocolate teapot’ are coming to be associated with Mayor Bowles.
For anyone that caught the news on Friday, Chris Boardman raised alarm at the lack of progress on cycling recently in the West of England. You can catch a more detailed program and discussion on it on the Sunday Politics West if you are quick.
The basic premise is that when each of the 6 mayors were elected, they were also given a load of money.
Greater Manchester’ Andy Burnham received £240M, committed £160M to cycling, employed Chris Boardman, designed a complete gold standard cycle network across 11 boroughs and is now spending £50M per year trying to build it. West Midlands Andy Street is also doing an immense amount of stuff exceptionally quickly. These are Metro Mayors that hit the ground running.
West of England’s Tim Bowles was given £80m, has taken a year to get a Head of Transport when the 2 page job advert did not mention walking and cycling, and has committed to producing a document, the joint local transport plan by April 2020.
On the politics show, the Metro Mayor was accused of being useless. When I was interviewed I called him as useful as a chocolate teapot when it came to transport.
You should be extremely alarmed that this man has sat on £80M of City Transformation Funding. That the wording he uses around this money is about strategic transport. That he wants to ‘promote’ cycling, despite WECA scrutiny panel assuring me in a written statement that the term promote would no longer be used and replaced with enable.
The reality is that Tim Bowles is utterly failing the people of the West of England, and before you try and defend him in anyway, Andy Street is Conservative and Andy Burnham is Labour. It is not about parties, it is about ability, about political will, about surrounding yourself quickly with good people and delivering.
Janet Sadik-Khan TRANSFORMED New York because Mayor Bloomberg had faith in her and backed her 100% all the way. Chris Boardman has the vision, but his ability to deliver is down to Metro Mayor Andy Burnham backing him 100% and putting money where his mouth is.
Tim Bowles has ensured that the wording he uses around the City Transformation Fund is about strategic transport, but I strongly suspect he does not consider cycling or walking strategic. It’s taken him over a year to employ a Head of Transport who needed experience of dealing with buses, but no experience of implementing walking or cycling strategies and he is so weak in this area, he is pushing any decisions around this space out to the Joint Local Transport Plan.
Yet Transport for London have recognised that Cycling is a strategic form of transport and have done complex Strategic Cycling Analysis, using commuter and school travel DATA. Tim Bowles knows this. I had a meeting with him last Christmas and showed him this. TfL are increasing road capacity by 15% by building cycle tracks.
This situation is utterly depressing and is very much down to Tim Bowles and his utter failure to get a grip on Transport from all aspects unless it has to do with 18a of the M4 junction.
As Chris Boardman said “It is not what does it cost to get people cycling and walking, but what is the cost not to get people cycling and walking”.
With the Joint Local Transport Plan not being published until April 2020 at the earliest, Tim Bowles will have set back the west by at least 2 years. In the meantime other mayors are absolutely killing it, focusing on enabling walking, cycling, and transforming public transport.
It’s less Metro Mayor Tim Bowles and more Teapot Tim.
We need a commitment from Tim Bowles to allocate the £80M he has been given to walking and cycling, implement a Strategic Cycling Analysis exercise, and begin delivery of a complete cycle network across the west. This could be done this year.