This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 4:38 pm and is filed under Bicycle advocacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Let me put something on record. I wouldn’t vote for a political party that promised to be the bees knees for cycling. I might be a bike geek but I have wider interests than just cycling.
Even if one of the parties said it would radically reduce car usage, bring in Strict Liability, and make it easier for everybody to ride bikes (not even the Green party goes that far…) it still wouldn’t make me vote for them if their other policies were pants.
I understand where the CTC is coming from in its Vote Bike campaign but I’m not interested in single-issue politics. Voting for the party that’s going to be bolshie on bankers or good for organic farming or ace on street cleaning (”tough on grime, tough on the causes of grime”) is not terribly good for society as a whole. I’ll look at all the policies, download all the manifestos, weigh up all the pros and cons, and then vote for the party that my parents voted for.
I’m happy with this. My parents aren’t party activists but their attitude to societal fairness obviously impressed me. They voted for the party that was “for the people” not “me, me, me.”
When the TV news does a story on budget day I don’t get out my calculator and work out how much I’m going to be better or worse off. I want to know how much is going to be spent on hospitals, on roads, on schooling, not whether a silly little tax allowance will enable me to buy half an iPad in three months’ time.
I don’t want to know what politicians are going to do for me. I want to know what they are going to do for all of us. Little Englander politics are a big turn off.
But where do the big parties stand on the major issues? It’s all blurred of late. David Cameron is in favour of Big Society (not terribly sure he’s got full party backing for that one) and yesterday Gordon Brown says we’re all middle class now.
Which is now the party for the people and which is the “me, me, me” party? It’s confusing.
What’s not confusing is what political parties are leaving out of their manifestos. Climate change, for instance, is getting just lip service from the major parties.
Transport is also being neglected. Cycling got the tiniest of mentions in the Labour and Conservative manifestos.
With parties vying for the attention of Mondeo-man it’s clear there were never going to be any big announcements about road pricing or other tough measures. This is OK. Transport is not a vote winner, and not exactly seen as a plum Ministerial department either, although Lord Adonis seems to be the best transport minister we’ve ever had, and not just because he’s a stick-thin cyclist.
Whichever party gets in, it’s obvious that the easiest Department to trim in one fell swoop is transport: cull a few miles of motorway and there’s billions of pounds saved straight away. The two main parties aren’t saying this in their manifestos. The LibDem manifesto - launched tomorrow - won’t say it either. UPDATE: In fact, the LibDem manifesto does mention road pricing, but not until a following term, which is a wishy-washy cop-out even by LibDem standards. The LibDems also want to phase out Vehicle Excise Duty.
I’m no fan of the UK Independence Party but as they unelectable they can say what other parties fear to voice. Most of the time this is right-wing claptrap but dotted through UKIP’s mostly bonkers manifesto there’s the odd bit of common-sense.
Legislate to introduce a crime of Vehicular Manslaughter, where for those whose excessively dangerous driving makes death on the road a near certainty.
Perfect. Except it’s a pearl in amongst an awful lot of infertile and rancid oysters.
As I said, I wouldn’t vote for a party based on their cycle policies but if I needed reasons not to vote for UKIP – and I don’t – there’s plenty here:
UKIP supports pedal cycles as a healthy means of personal transport, but…we believe that there needs to be a better balance of rights and responsibilities for pedal cyclists, with too much aggressive abuse of red lights, pedestrian crossings and a lack of basic safety and road courtesy.
UKIP would consult on the desirability of minimum third party liability insurance cover for cyclists - a simple annual flat rate registration ‘Cycledisc’, stuck to the bicycle frame, to cover damage to cars and others, which are currently unprotected. The Cycledisc should also carry clear identification details, which will help counter bicycle theft, and deter dangerous cyclist behaviour. We support provision of cycle parking at reasonable charges.
Cyclediscs? Sounds an awful lot like the cycle registration plates once espoused by Ken Livingstone when he was London mayor, but which he later dropped when it was pointed out bicycles are not motorbikes: they don’t have big back-ends on which to attach legible numberplates. As I expand upon on iPayRoadTax.com, when somebody calls for cyclists to be registered, pay ‘road tax’ and apply for licences to cycle, they don’t want to share the road with lots of licensed, fee-paying cyclists, they want less cyclists full-stop.
And what’s that about paying for cycle parking? UKIP is kidding, right? Cars have acres and acres of free off-street parking to choose from but cyclists have to pay? That’ll fly.
UKIP believes that basic cycle and safety training should be made mandatory, and be funded in schools or via local authorities.
Sounds great. But it’s not cycle training for every citizen in the UK - which would make a huge difference to road safety – it’s cycle training just for, er, cyclists. How about mandatory pedestrian training? Red light breaching by pedestrians is so endemic as to be invisible.
Cycling on safe cycle routes, lanes, tracks and trails should be actively encouraged, particularly as a leisure pursuit. UKIP believes off road dedicated lanes are preferable to a confusing maze of cycle lanes on unsuitable or dangerous roads, which is problematic for cyclists as well as other road users.
This one doesn’t need much decoding: Get. Off. My. Road.
Local authorities should be given additional powers to enforce a ‘cyclists dismount’ or ‘no cycling’ regulation where there are safety concerns – such as on busy roundabouts, junctions or bus lanes, or where the road would be too narrowed by cycle lanes and cause unacceptable delays to traffic.
What, enforce those stupid, idiotic, crazy ‘cyclists dismount’ signs? Oy! No cycling over roundabouts or over junctions? No cycling on roads, then?
And what’s that about “unacceptable delays to traffic?” First, bikes are part of the traffic, they just aren’t powered by motors. Second, it’s not bikes causing all the congestion, it’s cars, and buses and lorries. Bikes are slim; motorised traffic ain’t. And e-cars are not the answer. Electric vehicles are not a solution to congestion, but they do make the jams quieter.
OK, so that’s the Monster Raving Looney Party out of the way, what about Labour? Well, 13 years of fudging on transport tell us all we want to know, really. The car remains king; sustainable forms of transport will be thrown a few crumbs. The Labour manifesto has a para on free swimming lessons but just half a sentence about cycling.
So, how about the Tories? David Cameron and Boris Johnson are high-profile cyclists so the Conservatives must want to be seen to be pro-bike? Not a bit of it. At least there’s more of a whole sentence on cycling from the Tories but if it wasn’t for the PDF keyword search facility I’d've missed the mention.
Which is oh-so-different to 2007. Back then the Tories were far enough away from the election to say things they wouldn’t dream of saying now. John Gummer MP and Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist magazine, chaired the Quality of Life Policy Group and interviewed 500 people to come up with Blueprint for a Green Economy. This was meant to make it into the Conservative manifesto. Read it and you’ll see why it didn’t make the cut:
The many social and environmental benefits of walking and cycling have been catalogued for years, most recently in terms of averting the contemporary crises of environmental damage, congestion, and obesity. The wider role of these ‘soft modes’, walking in particular, has been promoted as a means of bringing about an urban renaissance, in which streets become pleasant places to walk, meet and talk. It is also argued that small schemes to promote walking and cycling might reduce congestion more cost-effectively than road-building or national road user charging.
Nor is analysis lacking upon the reasons for the relative decline of cycling and walking, which is attributed directly to car-based land-use planning. The creation of dispersed shopping, work and leisure centres is the opposite of the clustered, high density local facilities most conducive to non-motorised transport. In road design, cyclists’ and walkers’ needs are often considered as an afterthought.
…walking and cycling should be given higher priority in central government guidance to local authorities. Cycling England should be given a fair chance to achieve its objectives including the dedication of extra financial resources. Sustainable modes should be given specific funding priority. Government should work alongside professional bodies and voluntary organisations to disseminate best practice, including the marketing of walking and cycling, and their incorporation into travel plans.
The use of bicycles could be further extended, particularly for older people, by the electric bicycle that has been much improved, particularly in the Netherlands. The present law is still confusing and an incoming Conservative government should clarify it so that all electric bicycles, including the ‘twist and go’ variety, should be classified as bicycles and not as motor vehicles. In the countryside these significantly improved products might well provide an alternative to the motor car for some travelling shorter distances to work and a number of major companies are at present considering using them as part of their travel plans.
There are many ways in which promoting urban cycling can be imaginative, appealing and surprisingly cost-effective…
Yes, those really are the words from a Conservative Party policy group. Shame they never made it into the manifesto. And shame, too, that Zac Goldsmith turned so pro-car when he became a Tory candidate. Power corrupts.