Transport for London

2007-07-10, , Comments

“We can feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square,” said Gail. Not any more you can’t, not since Ken Livingstone became Mayor of London. Unlike most politicians, Livingstone has never been afraid to make unpopular decisions. 25 years ago when he ran the GLC I remember him slashing the price of tube travel through heavy subsidies, at the expense of tax payers; this at a time when everyone thought driving a car meant freedom. Now back as mayor, he’s introduced congestion charging and he continues to promote public transport. It cost Gail and me £6.70 each for a one-day-all-zones travel card, which seemed reasonable enough; the children travelled free. The Tour de France was starting in London for the first time. Apparently cycling is the fastest growing mode of transport in the capital. Does that mean anything? I became a cycle-commuter when I worked in London because I couldn’t stand underground travel — the crowding, the interminable stops between stations — and I’ve cycled to work ever since. When we arrived at Trafalgar Square it was amazingly quiet. A drunk fed some pigeons stale bread. The roads around the prologue stage were closed to traffic. We walked along Whitehall to Big Ben, we walked up the Mall, the crowd growing all the while, and by the time we settled in Green Park, people were stacked three deep along the barriers for the whole length of the route. On the big-screen we watched Ken Livingstone start the race.