On January 15th, Transport for London invited members of the UK bike industry to what it billed as the first Cycling Revolution Forum.
There were no representives from cycling user groups such as the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), just members of the trade, invited on the enticement of an audience with London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The Cycling Revolution Forum was said to be a meeting to compile ideas but in an email to trade-only attendees sent earlier this evening, Chris Mather of Transport for London’s SmarterTravel team showed there was a strong commercial reason for the meeting:
"There are immediate opportunities to partner with TfL to support programmes within the Mayor’s Cycling Revolution.
"We are in the process of sharing these opportunities with you so if you haven’t had a call and a presentation sent to you detailing these opportunities, then expect one in the next few days."
That TfL would do this was predicted by a blogger soon after the breakfast briefing.
"Politicians tend to do this. They’ll invite the manufacturers and, in classic US terms, the lobbyists with the money, in order that they can massage their egos enough to tap them for a bit of sponsorship money later.
"If they were to invite the LCC, then unfortunately real solutions costing tax payer money would be voiced and on the table. Then they’d have to publicly and visibly ignore those proposals, which had been aired in a London Assembly sponsored event."
One of the trade members present at the breakfast briefing said the meeting was a "sting operation", with Boris Johnson – a pro-bicycling celebrity – as bait.
"Boris was totally the hook. He was in and out within 20 minutes.
"TfL were very slick [and many of those present at the meeting] fell for the sting. Many were starry-eyed."
Another member of the trade present at the meeting – who admitted he was a little starry-eyed because of the ‘Boris effect’ – said: "Yes, we were there to be sold to but I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the bike trade."
Mark Ames of iBikeLondon.blogspot.com said:
"This first breakfast briefing was a thinly veiled attempt to tap up the bike industry for some cash.
"Unless TfL actually engage with the city’s cyclists their policies are going to fail. Well intentioned though their ideas might be, there can be no success without the support and input of the end users of any scheme."
TfL has said interest groups will be invited for their own meetings at London’s City Hall.