Low turnouts means a few pro-cycling votes can make a difference


Cycling campaign groups will flex their political muscle at next year’s local elections to try and get cycling-friendly candidates into council seats.

Thousands of candidates will be asked to back specific local actions such as fixing a dangerous roundabout, according to a report in the Independent.

The London Cycling Campaign is in the vanguard of the effort to skew the make-up of local councils toward cycling. Its Space For Cycling campaign is targeting the 2014 local elections, and it is working to roll out online campaigning tools in places such as Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham.

Mike Cavenett of the LCC said low council election turnouts can give the campaign a chance. “It only takes a small number of voters to make a difference,” he said.

“We’ve never done it before on this scale. We see the election as an opportunity to ramp up that pressure and motivate the electorate.”

Chris Peck, campaigns co-ordinator at national cycling charity CTC, said the elections were a “major opportunity to ensure that cycling is still seen as a high priority”.

“Councils have huge budgets and huge power,” he said. “They are places where we need to spend a lot more effort on converting people to support cycling.”

Activists in Birmingham said they would probably press for improvements to the road where Hope Fennell, 13, was killed by a lorry in 2011. The driver was sentenced to six months for dangerous driving because he had previously been exchanging text messages with his girlfriend, but was not found responsible for Hope’s death.

Hope was attempting to cross the road on foot because it was too dangerous to ride, her mother Nazan Fennell said.

“There’s no reason why she should have died. It was totally avoidable and that breaks my heart,” said Ms Fennell. “The criminal justice system is geared up to blame the victim. The system bent over backward to help this driver who was compromising everyone’s safety for God knows how long. There’s an incredible imbalance.”

The pollsters are divided on the campaign’s chances. Anthony Wells of YouGov said that those who don’t usually vote might be inspired to get out by an “emotive issue” like the death of Hope Fennell. But Ben Page of Ipsos Mori was sceptical: “Cyclists tend to be younger and the young don’t bother voting much anyway.”

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.