Last week Brian Cooke, a part time board member for Transport for London, tweeted his ignorance of how roads are funded (he didn’t think cyclists paid for roads) and when his ignorance was pointed out to him he called one of his challengers, Mandy Hodgkinson, a "rude lying cow."
Hodgkinson – imaderbygirl on Twitter – asked Transport for London what it thought about one of its board members having such poor knowledge of a transport subject.
Gareth Long, a customer services executive for Transport for London, replied:
"The tweets posted by Brian Cooke … were in a private capacity. Board Members of TfL are entitled to have their own views on issues and we do not consider that any of the content calls into question Mr. Cooke’s suitability as a TfL Board member."
And what about the "rude lying cow" comment?
Long said: "Mr Cooke has accepted that he should be more restrained in his exchanges, particularly if they have some relevance to his role as a TfL Board Member."
The many Twitter exchanges between a number of cyclists and Cooke last week were explicitly regarding his capacity as a TfL board member, and how somebody in his well-paid position could possibly not know how roads are funded. Roads are paid for by local and national taxation. Cooke had tweeted they were paid for, in part, by the "road fund licence" even though the road fund was abolished in 1937.
Cooke had tweeted: "Cyclists as cyclists pay virtually nothing toward road funding." He subsequently suspended his Twitter account. [UPDATE: it has now been reactivated, although the "rude lying cow" tweet has been deleted.]
A number of interests are represented on the TfL board, including rail, taxi and private car hire, but the board has no-one from cycling or pedestrian organisations. Board members receive up to £24,000 a year, for up to six meetings. Despite not knowing how roads are funded Cooke sits on TfL’s "Surface Transport" panel , i.e. mostly roads. In 2013/14, Cooke attended all six board meetings but only three out of the four "surface transport" panel meetings.
According to TfL’s corporate code of conduct, employees (including board members) have to conduct themselves to the "highest standards of behaviour" and are told that "bullying and harassment" will not be tolerated. The code of conduct added that "anyone with whom TfL has dealings" must be treated with "respect and with dignity."
Board members are expected to have a "most professional manner" and ought to demonstrate a "commitment to perform their work to the best of their ability."