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Leeds vetoes proposal to spend less on council cars, more on cycling

Car-centric thinking lingers in Motorway City of the 70s

Leeds City Council has voted down a proposal to spend less on milage allowances for council staff cars and more on cycling infrastructure.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, opposition Liberal Democrat councillors suggested the council could save £420,000 per year by reducing the petrol allowance for higher-powered vehicles from 65p per mile to the standard 45p set by HMRC.

But at a budget-setting meeting this week, councillors of the Motorway City of the 70s voted down the proposal.

Leeds hosts the Tour de France Grand Départ on July 5, but campaigners have questioned whether the event will raise the profile of everyday cycling. They say that in a city in which cycling accounts for just an estimated half a percent of journeys, hosting the Tour will simply cement the idea that cycling is a sport for the very fit, and not a feasible way of getting around.

Stewart Galton, Liberal Democrat groups leader on the council, said it was time for the council to “put its money where its mouth is” when it comes to its ‘cycling city’ ambitions, and to “seize the opportunity presented by the Tour de France to improve cycling in Leeds and get more people cycling”.

He said: “With the Tour de France coming to Leeds, 2014 is the best opportunity we’ll ever have to get more people cycling in the city. But the council seems unable to adopt an approach that doesn’t prioritise motorists above other road users.”

Leeds is planning a ‘super cycleway’ to connect with neighbouring Bradford, but campaigners say cycling provision is on the whole woeful, and diverting money from subsidising council workers’ use of gas-guzzlers into cycling infrastructure would be a step in the right direction.

Lizzie Reather, chair of the Leeds Cycling Campaign, said that Leeds is generally still “anti-cycling”.

“Cycling in Leeds is absolutely not safe and a lot more could be done,” she told the Evening Post.

“The cycle superhighway is really good but it’s really just one road. What are they going to do about the rest of the city?”

She said the savings on higher level petrol claims could be used sensibly to realign roads when routine maintenance work is being done. She added: “The council should not be spending public money unnecessarily encouraging car use by its staff which is both unsustainable and economically costly.”

Council leader Keith Wakefield said the authority’s “commitment to cycling has never been stronger”.

On the issue of milage rates, he said: “Changes to mileage rates are one of a number of issues already under discussion with staff and trade unions. It is right that we allow those discussions to conclude before taking any decisions.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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