This entry was posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010 at 12:51 pm and is filed under Bad motoring, 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.
From January onwards, thanks to a £43m gift from UK taxpayers, UK consumers will be eligible for £5000 grants to go get themselves electric cars. By definition these early adopters will be well-heeled. On the whole, electric cars will be sold as urban runabouts to rich folks who already own petrol-engine cars and who, because of e-car ‘range anxiety’, will keep their gas guzzlers for longer journeys.
Hoverboard Hammond - the Transport Secretary who, earlier this year, and at great risk to himself, single-handedly ended the war on the motorist – believes £28,000 e-cars will curb both emissions and congestion. Neither positions are true: emissions will just be shunted someplace else* and it’s patently obvious that e-cars, being the same size as standard cars, will not make a jot of difference to congestion.
So, why is the UK Government - in this supposed age of austerity - happy to subsidise motoring yet radically reduce the cash and support for cycling?
Last month the Government said it was going to scrap Cycling England. Per year, Cycling England cost £200,000 to run. As the M6 road widening project is weighing in at £1000 an inch, the running of Cycling England can be estimated to have cost about five metres of motorway per year. Not five miles, five metres.
But it’s politically easy to take cash away from cycling: cyclists don’t tend to blockade motorways.
While cyclists whistle in the wind for bicycle infrastructure, £400m worth of recharging infrastructure has been “mandated” for electric cars (yet more public subsidy for cars and not very many cars at that, perhaps just 8600 sold next year, believes the DfT), and billions are being spent on widening motorways.
The UK Government is stumping up just £560m over four years for its new Local Sustainable Transport Fund. So, all cycling, bus and pedestrian projects will be fighting it out over a pot that’s not a great deal more than been given to 8000 or so rich motorists. And this is the age of austerity? We all have to suffer together? Not if you want an electric runabout for town from January onwards.
The first annual payment of £140m from the £560m fund for buses, bikes and pedestrians won’t be released until October 2011.
Why is the UK Government - which bills itself as the ‘greenest Government ever’ - so incredibly short-sighted and mean when it comes to cycling?
By all means “invest” in electric cars but why spend so little on cycling? It was the last Government which created the £400m Plugged In Places scheme and the £5000 Plug-In Car Grant, but at least Labour spent cash on cycling, too.
If coal-powered electric cars can get big fat grants, why can’t coal-powered electric bicycles plug into the same slush fund?
Of course, better still, shouldn’t those who ride standard bicycles get paid for reducing the amount of cars on the road and emitting nothing more noxious than hot-air? Does anybody have a link for the application form for the £5000 grant for riding my bike every day?
* Most of the electricity produced in the UK is generated from burning coal. Nuclear energy is in the mix too, and that has its obvious downsides. Even if all our electricity was generated by green means (hydro, wind, wave, and solar) that still doesn’t get round the fact it’s daft to transport a ten stone human in a one-ton car for short distances.
Yes, an electric car produces less CO2 emissions than an ICE car. And we definitely want less spewing of carbon monoxide, benzene, particulates and NO2. But bicycles don’t produce any of those either.
But electric cars - and to a much lesser degree, electric bicycles - are no angels. Millions of e-cars will consume waaaay too much lithium. This is mostly mined in Latin America, in countries with sometimes unstable and suspect regimes.
Instead of focussing on a petrol car substitute, Governments around the world should be evaluating alternatives to the car.