Waltham Forest Councillor Clyde Loakes (pictured) delivered this speech at the Healthy Streets conference in London, 2018. His speech was transcribed on Twitter by Chris Kenyon (@boxbikelondon). Click here for the original Twitter thread.
‘I have been a councillor for a long time, since I was 27… I’ve spent more time dabbling in bins than anyone should and I have the scars from looking into car parking schemes.
‘I spent years talking about encouraging a shift to bikes and walking without actually doing the things that make a difference. If I am honest – I was tinkering with parking schemes and pandering to car owners. I was not delivering for our community.
‘Then I got a chance to do something extraordinary. We won our Better Waltham Forest mini-Holland bid with low traffic neighbourhoods and protected bike lanes. We had signed up to deliver a huge public health implementation at pace.
‘Surprisingly our plans for a human centric, better community provoked rage, protest and the use of four-letter anglo saxon words from a 500-strong group. Removing £100 million from our social services budget, nothing, but if you talk about parking…
‘But a ground-up movement of residents and fellow councillors championed a progressive intervention for our streets, making them better for everyone. We went house to house and made the case.
‘In the local elections in May this year and worried by what was being said on social media, the local press, in public meetings and on protests – I drafted my resignation letter.
‘But guess what… I got the largest majority I have ever had. Every Labour councillor that had backed the scheme showed a significant increase in votes. It was amazing. So it was popular once built… but was it impactful?
‘We commissioned Kings College to see the what the health impact of the scheme was. Again if you believed the local press – no one was now walking or cycling as a result of our work. Again… I prepared my resignation letter.
‘The impact of what we have done is enormous and it’s impacted public health measurably. DfT data shows that not only did the borough have the largest increase in walking last year, the increase is so large that life expectancy has been extended for residents.’