Just like it took a cross-party parliamentary body to produce the “Get Britain Cycling” report, cycling is an all-party sport. And even as a pro-cycling geek, I have to accept that there are plenty of other issues at this year’s parliamentary elections. So the likelihood of all cyclists voting for the party offering the best pro-cycling manifesto is small, but I thought it might be of interest to compare what the different English-based parties have to say on cycling.
I have then given thema slightly objective but admittedly considerably subjective star rating from a high of 5 out of 5, down to a pitiful 1 out of 5, as follows.
The Greens: ★★★★★
“We must create a transport system that is socially just and addresses health inequality by prioritising access to services by walking, cycling and public transport. This means reallocating road space, reducing road danger and cleaning up our air to make our towns, cities and villages into more liveable, socially inclusive places.”
The Greens are pro-cycling and many a Green candidate will turn up to hustings and other meetings on a bike and have been keen advocates of cycling where they are elected locally. Their budget commitment for cycling (and walking) is the highest of all the parties at £30 per head per year which earns them my #CycleSpy 5-star rating, but they are unlikely to form the next government, but it remains to be seen if they are involved in a coalition, and can get some of their policies adopted. They would also wish to see on-street parking reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists and stop pavement parking.
Liberal Democrats: ★★★★☆
“Getting Britain cycling is a core Liberal Democrat priority. We know that having more people cycling is a win-win situation: wellbeing increases, public health improves, roads are safer and less congested, and the environment benefits. We are the first party that committed to the Get Britain Cycling report’s recommendations. We will give cycling the vital funding it needs of £10 per head to hit the target of 10pc of journeys by bike by 2025, and 25pc by 2050.”
The Liberal Democrats proposed the amendments to the Transport & Infrastructure bill which for the first time set objectives for cycling (and walking) and required future governments to allocate money to achieve those goals. The LibDems also adopted the recommendations of the cross-party report entitled “Get Britain Cycling”. The LibDems pledge to spend £10 per head per year which “will allow investment in cycling including bike lanes, high-volume secure bike parking, and road safety measures to keep cyclists safe” and get them my #Cyclespy 4-star rating.
“We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200m to make cycling safer so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year.” The manifesto also says “Over the past five years, we have more than doubled spending on cycling schemes, ensured that new strategic roads are cycle-proofed and committed to delivering properly funded and targeted investment strategies for cycling and walking for England. We are helping to deliver safer junctions on road networks, traffic-free cycle links and cycle training in schools.”
David Cameron started off his premiership being photographed on a bike – even if a police car followed with his shoes – and Boris Johnson is a more regular rider and has seen his name taken to describe the “Boris Bikes” in London. But the expenditure on cycling through the financial help given to just 8 cities is more likely to have been a LibDem influence. Expenditure may well have increased, but to nothing like the amount required. The spending commitment in the manifesto equates to less than £1 per person per year – which is less than the current £2 – and is a tiny proportion of their planned £100 billion spend on road and rail infrastructure. But they have made a financial commitment, and this gets them my 3-star rating.
“Boosting cycling and walking is a big priority for Labour – it’s good for our transport system, for public health and crucially for our environment. We will set out a clear and distinct, long-term active travel budget to give councils the certainty they need to invest effectively. For our strategic road network, we will commit to spending £250 million on cycling infrastructure, safety and integration. And we will match the government’s commitment to spend £114 million on cycling across the country.”
Labour’s commitment to cycling was undermined by their shadow transport spokesman Michael Dugher saying that he wanted to be the motorists’ champion. Since the actual election period has started, Labour have made more favourable statements on the funding of cycling provision, which is a welcome change from the inconsistent display when they were previously in government; it is somewhat ironic that they say they will end the “stop-start” cycle funding, having been guilty of just that. When the manifesto was published there was no mention of funding levels for cycling infrastructure, although they do say that “Cycling and walking should be the default option for short journeys”. They say that they will “deliver the Infrastructure Bill commitment to set out an ambitious and long-term Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy by Summer 2016”. When the strategy would get converted into an action plan and funding commitment is not specified. Having a strategy, but having no allocated funds, earns my #CycleSpy 2-star* rating.
There is not one mention of bikes in the 76 page UKIP manifesto. Searching for “cycling” finds only 1 mention – and that is in the word “recycling”.
Support for cyclingdoesn’t seem likely from the self-proclaimed “party of the motorist”. The manifesto places these words above the name of Jill Seymour MEP, UKIP’s transport spokesman:
“Ours is a nation always on the move. Whether our daily journey takes us on the school run or on a long, cross-country haul, everyone needs a reliable, cost-efficient transport network. We do not need extortionate vanity projects or excessive regulations and motorists should not feel as if they are being used as cash cows to boost national or local government funds.”
UKIP get (and I could scarcely say “earn”) my #CycleSpy 1-star rating.
It has been suggested that cyclists don’t have any power. And yet the membership of the CTC at 70,000 was larger than the Commons Library January 2015 estimates of membership for any of the Liberal Democrats, Greens, or UKIP and equivalent to about two of those parties combined. Adding the membership of British Cycling at 100,000 to that of the CTC, total paid membership of these two organisations is larger than the Conservative party and almost as big as the Labour party.
So why don’t we as cyclists campaign together, if not at an election, then during a parliament. Admittedly, there have been effective campaigns and lobbying (the most recent perhaps the CTC lobby to get cycling into the Infrastructure Bill), but nothing that really harnesses the power of 170,000 cyclists. If we could persuade a load of those cyclists to spend 53p on a 2nd class stamp, how long would it take a government ministry to open tens of thousands of letters? Would it make a media photo-opportunity to see sackful after sackful of post arriving? A letter to a ministry one week, to the Chancellor the next, to a particular MP the following week. I think it might just get noticed. #PedalPower!
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