Saturday 2 May 2015

Election campaigning - Vote bike??!!

It's been going on since January. These four months of General Election campaigning have been filled with pledges for this, pledges for that, Punch and Judy politics, politicians feeding cute lambs and reading stories at less than enthusiastic primary school children! David Cameron has even declared himself a football fan - shame he got confused about which team he supports! And we've even had a big pink bus - specially to attract female voters (??)

Thankfully we are in the home strait, even if we have no idea who's gonna win the election race. This lack-lustre general election campaign has been a glut of vacuous policies, peppered with repetitive backbiting. How are we to decipher who to vote for??
I guess as a start point I could see what the parties promise for cycling.

These guys must have a bit more to say than "long term economic plan" and "tighten our borders and leave the EU"....

What do they have to say to the about the everyday man or woman in the street on a bicycle?

After all, the Infrastructure Act was passed earlier on this year, requiring the government to set a cycling and walking investment strategy on our roads. Furthermore, with all the campaigning being done by the likes of CTC, The Times Cities fit for Cycling, and Cycling Commissioner Chris Boardman, some of that must have rubbed off onto the politicians.

So what do the different political manifestos say?

The Labour Party gives a couple of mentions on cycling:

"We will continue to support the construction of High Speed Two, but keep costs down, and take action to improve and expand rail links across the North to boost its regional economies. We will support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling."

"We will embark on the biggest devolution of power to our English city and county regions in a hundred years with an English Devolution Act. It will transfer £30 billion of funding to city and county regions, along with new powers over economic development, skills, employment, housing, and business support. This will include control over local transport systems so that in future, local bodies can integrate trains, buses, trams and cycling into a single network. We will enable city and county regions to retain 100 per cent of additional business rates raised from growth in their area."

That's a bit slim, and no specific detail is given to exactly how much will be spent on promoting cycling. At least the Conservative Party give us some numbers.

"We will make motoring greener and promote cycling, to protect your environment. Our aim is for almost every car and van to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050 – and we will invest £500 million over the next five years to achieve it. We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200 million to make cycling safer, so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year."

I'm not sure how much can be done for cycling throughout the whole of the UK with that sum over five years. Currently Paris is embarking on an a project to improve its cycling infrastructure. The budget for the French capital alone is €150m. Shame on the Tories with its £200m for the whole country!

If the two major political parties don't have much to say about cycling in their manifestos the smaller political parties don't seem to fare much better.

The Liberal Democrats mention cycling in their manifesto in relation to policies on improving air quality, an pledge to introduce "New incentives for local schemes that cut transport-related pollutions, and encourage walking and cycling."

The manifesto continues:

To promote innovation and greener transport choices we will:
  • Support options for an intercity cycleway along the HS2 route, within the overall budget for the project.
  • Implement the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report, including steps to deliver a £10 a head annual public expenditure on cycling within existing budgets.
  • This will allow greater investment in cycling including bike lanes, high-volume secure bike parking, and road safety measures to keep cyclists safe.

How happy would I be riding along a cycle path with high-speed trains zooming past me every few minutes. Hmm'nice! Of course the big question with the Lib Dems, more so than other parties is will they actually implement these plans if they entered a coalition government, or will they keel over and renege on things like they did with tuition fees?? 
It's no surprise that the party that gets five stars on its cycle policy is the Greens, which has cycle policy at the heart of its infrastructure and environmental policy. Using the work they have done in Lancaster and Brighton as the example, the Greens pledge to continue the work they have done to make the streets more welcoming for cyclists by restricting speed limits on the streets to 20 mile per hour, developing cycle hubs at train stations, setting up priority access for cyclists at junctions, and building more areas for secure cycle parking.

Neither UKIP nor the Scottish Nationalist Party give specific mention to cycling in their manifestos. The Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cymru) has a one liner saying it "will ensure funding for urban cycle paths and between communities, particularly in travel to work areas."

A number of politicians are seen cycling around Westminster. There is an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which organises a cycle ride every year. But I guess that's just as gimmicky as David Cameron proving his sustainability credentials by cycling to work while his ministerial car carrying his suit and shoes follows behind him!

So, there you have it - a rather sorry picture of government cycling policy in this country. None of the mainstream parties have got their wheels properly into motion!

Vote bike?! Well, that's going to be easier said than done.

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