On the eve of yesterday’s Parliamentary debate of the Get Britain Cycling report, the Labour Party threw its weight strongly behind improving conditions for cycling with the launch of Labour for Cycling, a campaign from the party’s SERA environmental group.
As the debate started, a claimed 5,000 people rode from Jubilee Gardens to Parliament square an for the first time in its history Palace of Westminster was entirely surrounded by protestors on bikes.
Image: London Cycling Campaign
In supporting cycling, Labour is unsurprisingly taking the chance to have a pop at what it claims is the coalition government’s gap between words and deeds.
“Cycling is currently seeing high visibility, with politicians on all sides eager to be seen with a cycle helmet or a Brompton,” writes Lambeth councillor and environmental campaigner Martin Tiedemann on the SERA website. “But for David Cameron, cycling means a photo opportunity with the ministerial car lurking around the corner, while Boris Johnson has been content to take the credit for a cycling revolution in London’s City Hall brought in by Ken Livingstone. We know that it is Labour councils, like Hackney, Camden and Lambeth in London, Manchester and Oxford elsewhere, who are showing the real leadership on cycling.
“In recent weeks, we’ve welcomed the announcement of money for cycling in a number of cities around England but, as Tom Hayes pointed out on our website, this was largely double counting and replacing the money cut when the Tories abolished Cycling England, set up by Labour. Not so much cycle as spin cycle.”
Strong stuff, but if Labour matches rhetoric with policies and action, it could make them the most pro-cycling of the big three parties at the next election.
Image: London Cycling Campaign
Transport charity Sustrans commented that the passionate pro-cycling words from MPs must now be backed by action.
Sustrans policy director, Jason Torrance, said: “Cycling bridged the political divide tonight, with MPs from all parties supporting renewed action from government as they spoke passionately about the need to get more Britons on their bikes.
“But words without action will do little to make our roads safer, improve the health of our population or give the economy its much-needed boost.
“We need to remove barriers to cycling that government is introducing such as the parking free-for-all in our town centres, while also setting ambitious targets for UK cycling levels and introducing legislative change in England that echoes the Active Travel (Wales) Bill.”
Sustrans is calling on the government to immediately:
Dedicate an annual budget to cycling
Set targets for increasing levels of cycling
Appoint a cycling champion
Implement blanket 20mph speed limits in residential areas
The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) organised the ‘Space for Cycling’ ride that accompanied the debate and claimed 5000 people had taken part, forming a procession several miles long.
While Sustrans and Labour for Cycling have national objectives, London Cycling Campaign is focussed on the capital. Its puerpose in yesterday’s protest ride was to remind Mayor of London Boris Johnson “that providing dedicated space for cycling is vitally important for make our streets safe and inviting for everyone.”
The measures London Cycling Campaign wants to see include: making main roads and major junctions safe for cycling using segregated tracks and cyclist-specific traffic lights to protect people from fast-moving and heavy motor traffic; and transforming local streets – where people predominantly live and shop – into spaces that are safe for cycling and walking by removing through motor traffic and reducing its speed.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.