If you followed the Big Cycling Debate, an event in March involving transport spokespeople from the three main parties, you’d be forgiven for thinking policies on cycling would at least be relatively prominent in the election. While the Conservatives and Labour were notably short on specific promises, they and the Lib Dems all said they were, at last, taking the issue seriously.
Now we can see whether they did. Below is a brief run-through of cycling policies promised by the five main parties competing in England and Wales – the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Ukip and Greens – in their manifestos.
Why should they take cycling seriously? Amid bitter and vital debates about the economy, benefits, housing and defence, why worry about the concerns of what is, for now, a fairly marginal transport option?
Firstly, cycling could have much more impact on the nation than most people think. Physical inactivity and obesity form a vast and frightening public health disaster which, experts warn, could help sink the NHS before too long. Turning the current 2%-ish of UK trips made by bike to 25% would mean millions of inactive people are suddenly getting the exercise that prolongs and improves lives.
But more than that, cycling is something of a mini-test of a party’s political vision. Everyone knows the many, many public and individual benefits that mass cycling brings to cities and countries. Just about every mayor and transport minister in the world would like more cycling, at least in theory. But it takes will and courage to look beyond the usual narrative of NHS and benefits. And it’s sad to say this is all too often lacking.
Not traditionally the cyclists’ friends, the Tories have talked an increasingly good game in recent years, with David Cameron (and, at least once, George Osborne) being photographed on two wheels, with Cameron later promising a “cycling revolution”. This process has been arguably encouraged by the popularity in London of Boris Johnson’s cycling measures (well, some of them) and of Lib Dems’ influence, notably the long-serving cycling minister, Norman Baker.
But it’s fair to say Cameron’s “revolution” will not come from their 2015 manifesto. The one, very vague, mention of cycling reads:
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.
On the assumption this £200m is over a full parliament, that’s less than £1 per person per year. Contrast that with the promised £15 billion investment in roads. This is a party that is simply not interested.
Under Mary Creagh, briefly the shadow transport minister, there were high hopes for Labour, even mutterings they might consider endorsing some of the Get Britain Cycling report recommendations. While the official policy line remains strongly pro-cycling, under new incumbent Michael Dugher, with his “war on the motorist is over” rhetoric, things look more gloomy.
The party manifesto reflects this – two mentions of cycling in 86 pages, and no commitment for funding. These are the mentions:
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 £30bn 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% of additional business rates raised from growth in their area.
There is, it seems, a wider Labour plan for cycling, the estimable road.cc website found, saying Labour would deliver the new Infrastructure Bill by setting out “an ambitious and long-term cycling and walking investment strategy” by summer 2016, overseen by a cross-government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board.
Its notable, however, that this is virtually meaningless without any funding commitment.
Want to see how the rest of the parties fare? Read the rest if the article by clicking the link below.