Before we talk about politics let’s first talk about a story that hit the national press. It was just last week we all heard about David Cameron not wearing a helmet whilst cycling. This can only be described as one of the biggest pieces of non-news to have ever been covered in our national papers. I personally can think of many worse things David Cameron could have been doing.
The first picture I have in my mind always makes me chuckle. I can picture David Cameron cycling along with a mobile phone in one hand and a pint of lager in the other, steering the bike with his knees. (Sounds like some white van drivers).
The second image I have is of David Cameron smoking a joint on a BMX bike.
The final image, my obviously over-stimulated brain gives me, is perhaps the most shocking. It is of David Cameron not on a bike, but instead in a big 4 by 4.
Yet that last image is not at all shocking to the press. It is normal. Why shouldn’t David Cameron be travelling to work in a car?
There is a point to this story. Cycling is still seen as this “niche” activity that only a small section of society do. Driving is the norm and cycling is “a bit weird”. David Cameron is being ridiculed for being a cyclist. Many newspapers laugh at the fact politicians cycle to work and the silly point they are trying to make. What they don’t realise is that it is probably the fastest way for them to get from A to B, stay healthy and enjoy some exercise.
Whilst cycling is still seen as peripheral to the main issues rather than a solution to many of the main issues, such as the environment, then not a lot is going to change. Much like the horrendously poor coverage in some newspapers, it is likely cycling will receive horrendously poor coverage in the election.
In an effort for this not to be the case, the National Cyclists Organisation have created the Vote Bike page. This attempts to make cycling into a bigger issue by showing that people will be taking it into consideration when they turn up at the ballot box.
On that page you can contact your local MP and let them know this is going to be an issue to you. You can ask them to sign up to the manifesto for improving cycling.
The CTC have recently gathered statements from each of the main parties regarding their position on cycling:
“The Labour government introduced Bikeability [the training scheme dubbed 'Cycling Proficiency for the 21st century'] and the Cycling Towns programme … the results show a 27 percent increase in cycling.
“The current Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has pursued several cycle-friendly policies since he took office, including new investments in cycle-rail interchanges and the Cycle to Work Guarantee – a scheme for major employers committing them to encourage commuter cycling, including a commitment to implement the Cycle to Work tax incentive scheme, perhaps the single most useful long-term policy in support of cycling to have emerged from this government.
“At a recent event hosted by the All Party Campaign for Better Transport, Lord Adonis said: ‘To be honest, our record on cycling in the past has been mixed, at best. But I’m determined cycling should be at the heart of all our efforts to put local transport on a more sustainable footing. I have also placed particular emphasis on the importance of cycling – not as an occasional travel option, but as a mainstream form of transport.’”
“Encouraging cycling will be an important priority for a future Conservative government, as it already is for the Conservative administration in London. We recognise the benefits cycling can bring for tackling congestion, reducing emissions and improving public health.
“Conservatives want to change the culture of highways planning to push the concerns of cyclists up the agenda of the professionals who manage our roads. By encouraging Department of Transport officials to ‘think cyclist’ we would aim to create a culture that would permeate down to officials and councillors who are responsible for managing roads locally. Our goal would be to make cycling a safer and more attractive transport option.
“To boost the take-up of low carbon travel, a Conservative government would also change the way transport schemes are appraised. We would reform the current model NATA, which is the Department of Transport’s cost benefit analysis for appraising the value of transport projects, in order that it reflects the benefits of low carbon schemes like cycling. And we would introduce a moratorium on building on any disused rail lines still in public ownership. This will keep open the possibility of reopening them for cycle use in the future.
“Not only will we encourage officials to prioritise cycling, but we will also reform the much-criticised Transport Innovation Fund. These funds would then be available to create a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund to support sustainable travel. Local authorities will be able to use the funds to encourage the development of new green transport schemes such as cycle routes and corridors.”
“The Liberal Democrats will promote a transport hierarchy, with the least polluting forms – walking and cycling – at the top, working down to the most polluting at the bottom. We will then look to invest in the most environmentally friendly forms, whenever possible."
Specific plans for cycling include:
- Working with boroughs to develop a cycle recycling scheme so that more people to have access to bikes.
- Introducing legislation requiring new office blocks and other major places of employment to have proper facilities for cycling, including parking and changing facilities
- Promoting the expansion of the National Cycle Network, particularly off-road routes as research shows that cycle routes separated from roads have far higher use levels than those which form part of roads.
- Ensuring cycling is built into all local transport plans and signage for cyclists is improved.
- Improving facilities for parking and cycle storage at stations.
- Introducing a cycling ‘Gold Standard’ award for rail and bus stations meeting minimum cycle facility standards, including adequate provision of secure parking and information on local cycle routes.
- Improving road safety, road quality and reducing traffic levels to make cycling easier, safer and more accessible to all.
- Promoting cycling competency schemes.
- Supporting the adoption of large scale bicycle rental programmes.
- Making 20mph the default, but not the mandatory, speed limit in residential areas. Introducing variable speed limits near schools.
- Improving road safety by lowering the drink driving limit from 80mg of alchohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg, in line with many other European countries.
“On average, a bicycle moves only 2mph slower than a car through the streets of London. Since 2000, Greens on the London Assembly have tripled the money available for supporting cyclists and walkers from £21 million to £63m. To make cycling safer, the Green Party wants a 20mph limit throughout built up areas, including villages. This would reduce the need for specific traffic calming measures everywhere.
“To promote cycling, the Green Party recognises we need to reduce the need to travel long distances for work, leisure and shopping. We need to improve road conditions to make them safe and convenient, and bicyclists need more road space.
“We would push all large employers and organisations to have space for bicycles and belongings that are safe, secure and dry. This should also apply to council and private housing. Elected Green MPs will encourage government tax relief for work-related cycling, on a scale no less generous than car allowances.
“Finally, all rail stations should have secure high quality cycle parking provision, with new rolling stock designed to easily carry bicycles, as demand rises.”
To make cycling a bigger part of the election it will take a lot of pestering of MPs. I’ve already emailed my local MP, Glenda Jackson, and I’ve yet to hear back so I will be chasing her up.
- Vote bike website on CTC
- Good article on Guardian Bike Blog today about the election – make sure you take a look at the UKIP suggestions for hilarious reading!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.