Tuesday, 4 September 2012

New Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, needs to implement a National Cycling Strategy in the UK to help tackle the recession

With Patrick McLoughlin MP as our new Transport Minister as part of the cabined reshuffle, now is the most important time to email him - Patrick.McLoughlin.mp@parliament.uk - letting him know that we want Utility Cycling to be included (at the very least) on the Government's new Transport Agenda and infrastructure spending plans.


Patrick McLoughlin MP not quite on a bike, but at least standing next to one (far right). Shamelessly borrowed from a good article on the same subject by Carlton Reid on BikeBiz.

I've written a fair bit of local and mayoral transport policy, but I'd now like to focus on our (comparative lack of a) national cycling policy.

In January 2012 France created a National Cycling Strategy.

The whole document is available for the public to view, in French, here. It's certainly interesting reading, with stats like:

"80% of journeys made by car in France are 5km or less" (p.7).

Moreover, France's national newspaper, Le Monde, regularly publishes articles such as this, which recognise the completely transformative positive effect that increased cycling rates could have on our major cities.

All we have here in Britain by way of a National Cycling Policy is the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, giving a lot of nice sounding press-quotes about increasing London's cycling rates, and doing much less. There is no concrete nation-wide plan to increase cycling in this country. This is absolutely ridiculous.

It's not just smaller European countries like Holland, Denmark and Switzerland that have recognised the economic, health and societal benefits of encouraging cycling at a national level. Now the French are doing it too.

Why is Britain not catching up?

If you agree that this is a ridiculous state of affairs I would urge you to contact our new Transport Minister at Patrick.McLoughlin.mp@parliament.uk so we can hopefully see a National Cycling Strategy (for Britain) unveiled in the next 6 months.

Furthermore, you can also make you voice heard at the Department for Transport using the contact us section of their website.

Our idiotic cabinet needs to realise that Utility Cycling is not a policy that should be relegated to LibDem and Green local councillors.

It can, and should, be a full-bred Conservative policy too.* The majority of the UK's cyclists are white and male. The highest peak-rate of cyclists in London is in the Square Mile; also home of the horrid banker people like George Osbourne. Half of Boris Bike subscribers earn over £50,000 a year. These people may not pay car tax (road tax, as we know, doesn't exist), but they are paying 40% or higher rates of income tax (the single largest source of revenue collected by the Government).

It's simply bad politics (i.e. ignoring your own voters) for the Conservatives not to get behind Utility Cycling.

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To finish, another quote from the French National Cycling Strategy document:

"The inhabitants of Copenhagen choose overwhelmingly to cycle by bike because it is 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'. Other reasons, such as the 'environment, health', rank much lower (p.7-8)."

'Safe, cheap, quick, convenient'.

This a list of the qualities which a Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government would look for in transport of any kind.

Why are they so blind to the overwhelming advantages of creating a National Cycling Strategy which aims to create the kind of cycle infrastructure that will make cycling in the UK 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'?

Email our new transport minister today and help change their minds: Patrick.McLoughlin.mp@parliament.uk

(comments welcomed)

* I'm not saying this as a Conservative (I'm a student and voted LibDem in 2010 - sucks to be me). I'm saying this as someone who thinks cycling in the UK could, and should, drastically improve.

EDIT (7/9/2012): An article in The Telegraph today echoes this argument that supporting cycling makes complete political sense for a Conservative/LibDem Government (indeed, for any Government): http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jakewallissimons/100179317/compare-joanna-rowsell-with-wayne-rooney-thats-why-cycling-not-football-should-be-our-national-sport/

Some stats from the article:

- Membership of British Cycling has doubled to 50,000
- There are now 13 million cyclists in Britain
- Cycling, as a sport, contributes £2.9 billion to the British Economy
- 3.7 million bikes sold in 2011, retail jump of 28% (despite a recession)
- Regular cyclists take fewer days off work for sickness, saving the country £128 million each year. This figure will multiply as cycling rates increase.