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Manifesto commitments examined

The two largest political parties, Labour and the Conservatives, have both released their election manifestos, as have the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. Time, then, to take a look at what the parties are offering cyclists. We'll add other parties as they launch their manifestos, with the Lib-Dems due to announce theirs tomorrow.

This general election has seen a flurry of activity from cycling advocates determined to pin political parties down on their commitment to cycling, a campaign which saw the UK's first "Big Cycle Debate" in March, organised by the UK Cycling Alliance.

For the first time the UK also has a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, making it a legal obligation that parliament set objectives for cycling and allocate money to achieve those goals. It is widely believed a minimum of £10 per head per year is needed to increase cycling levels, rising to £20 as more people take to two wheels. At present spending on cycling is around £2 per head per year.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said at the start of the year it would be "suicide" for political parties not to include funding commitments for cycling in their manifestos, but how many have heeded his advice?

Conservatives

The Tories this week announced £200m for cycling, part of its infrastructure pledges for "more and faster trains, more roads and cycle routes". However, as Chris Boardman has pointed out, this equates to less than £1 per person per year.

The Conservative manifesto statement on cycling says: "We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200m to make cycling safer so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year."

However, it does not make clear a time scale for this funding (it is assumed over five years) and the figure is a tiny proportion of the Tories' planned £100bn infrastructure spend over the next parliament including, it says, "the biggest investment in rail since Victorian times, and the most extensive improvements to our roads since the 1970s". 

Among its £15bn roads fund the Conservatives will spend £500m on making almost every car and van zero-emission by 2050, and "provide enough funding to fix around 18 million potholes nationwide between 2015 and 2021" while adding 1,300 extra lane miles to the roads.

Also potentially important for cycling the Tories will also "devolve far-reaching powers over economic development, transport and social care to large cities which choose to have elected mayors."

Both Labour and the Tories will allow local councils to retain 100% growth in business rates, good news for those investing in cycle infrastructure, which has been shown to increase retail sales by up to 47%.  

Green Party 

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Greens are keen as mustard on the bike, and say they would spend £30 per head per year on walking and cycling.

The Green Party manifesto says "we need to rescue our towns and cities from traffic and turn them back into places where we want to be. The Green Party will support an [Welsh-style] Active Travel Bill for England in order to achieve this."

It says it will "make streets healthy and safe places for people to cycle and walk and for children to play, while building physical activity into their daily journeys."

Cycling is second in the party's transport hierarchy, below walking and disabled access to transport, and above public transport. Walking, cycling and public transport, it says, should be taken into account in all planning decisions, and the different modes linked to one another.

On-street parking spaces, say the Greens, should be reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists, with pavement parking eliminated altogether, while cycle parking should be provided wherever there is demand, including secure cycle parking on residential streets.

The Greens also support presumed liability of motor vehicle drivers when pedestrians and cyclists are injured. They would require all newly manufactured lorries to be fitted with "best practice technology to make sure that drivers are fully aware of the presence of all pedestrians and cyclists". As well as improving rail freight to reduce lorries on the roads the Greens would  incentivise consolidation of deliveries to encourage more cargo bike use. 

Key to encouraging cycling for transport, the Green manifesto says, is reducing the distance people need to travel for work, leisure and shopping, and switching more journeys away from the car. It says local government transport departments need to work with health departments to promote active travel.

Labour Party

Labour's 86 page manifesto mentions cycling twice, and at the time of writing there's no funding attached.
Labour says: "We will support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling."

The second mention of cycling relates to devolution of power to English city and county regions, the £30bn English Devolution Act. Labour says: "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".

However, when asked for clarification on funding, Labour's Plan for Cycling was revealed.
It says "Britain’s roads are for everyone. Labour wants to give everyone the choice to cycle and walk safely on them."

Noting the environmental, economic and health benefits of cycling, and the potential to reduce congestion, it says: "Cycling and walking should be the default option for short journeys, but political leadership - at national and level - is required to improve conditions for ‘active travel’ on roads across the UK."

It says Labour will end stop start cycle funding and "make promoting walking and cycling a priority in government", adding this will be a cross departmental issue.

"Labour will deliver the Infrastructure Bill commitment to set out an ambitious and long-term Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in Government by Summer 2016. We will create a new, cross-Government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board to oversee this strategy and put active travel central to transport policy."

These are not in the manifesto though, so are arguably not so much a pledge as an aspiration.

Labour says it has signed up to the government's spending plans on cycling for 2015-20, which includes the existing cycle city ambition fund money and roads investment strategy.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems were the first to sign up to the CTC's Vote Bike campaign this week, and earlier this year the first to adopt recommendations in the pivotal Get Britain Cycling report. These both include pledges to spend £10 per head per year on cycling, to increase journeys by bike to 10% of all trips by 2025 and 25% by 2050, create consistently high design standards for cycle infrastructure and strengthen road traffic law and its enforcement  to protect cyclists, while offering cycle training for all ages.

Although it is not clear whether the £10 per head per year will be spent from the offset or a target for the five year term, the Lib Dem manifesto does indicate what the money, taken from existing budgets, will be spent on:

"This will allow investment in cycling including bike lanes, high-volume secure bike parking, and road safety measures to keep cyclists safe".

Cycling comes under the Lib Dems' proposed Green Transport Act, one of its Five Green Laws. For the Act the party would consult on low emission zones in the most polluted towns and cities, as well as on "new incentives for local schemes that cut transport-related pollution, and encourage walking and cycling."

The Lib Dems would also support an "intercity cycleway" alongside the HS2 route.

Cycling also appears under  "health". where, the Lib Dems say, it is better to prevent illness "rather than just waiting until people develop diseases".

"By tackling air pollution we can attack the root causes of many deaths; by opening up more sports facilities and building more cycle routes we can cut obesity and reduce heart problems."

Plaid Cymru

Cycling gets two mentions in Plaid Cymru's 64 page Westminster manifesto:

"We will ensure funding for urban cycle paths and between communities, particularly in travel to work areas."

"We will create more sustainable infrastructure with a particular focus on better housing, public transport, leisure and education facilities developing urban green areas and cycle routes"

Cycling as a sport also plays a role in Plaid Cymru's Inspire Wales programme, aimed at encouraging a variety of ages, abilities and ethnic backgrounds to participate in sports, as well as more women. Plaid Cymru will look to develop Irish-style Local Sports Partnerships to this end, linking Welsh governing bodies, sports authorities, schools and leisure facilities. The party's manifesto says: "We will look into attracting the Tour de France to Wales, for both men and women".

In 2013 Wales, which has devolved transport powers, passed the Active Travel Bill, which places obligation on councils to plan to improve its cycling and walking routes.
 

UKIP

While UKIP voiced its support for cycling in response to the CTC's Vote Bike campaign, contrary to anti-cycling comments from some of its candidates, this support hasn't translated to any commitment, or indeed a single mention of cycling, in its 76 page manifesto. Instead, the party's transport policy focuses on the car.

According to Jill Seymour, UKIP's transport spokesman: "Ours is a nation always on the move. Whether our daily journey takes us on the school run or on a long, cross-country haul, everyone needs a reliable, cost-efficient transport network. We do not need extortionate vanity projects or excessive regulations and motorists should not feel as if they are being used as cash cows to boost national or local government funds."

To this end UKIP wants to make motoring cheaper.

"UKIP will only allow installation of speed cameras when they can be used as a deterrent at accident black spots, near schools and in residential areas where there are specific potential dangers".

"We will remove road tolls where possible and let existing contracts on running road tolls expire. Motorists are already taxed highly enough through fuel and vehicle taxes."

"To help protect the enduring legacy of the motor industry and our classic and historic vehicles, UKIP will exempt vehicles over 25 years old from Vehicle Excise Duty."

UKIP's lack of interest in green transport is reflected in its stance on air quality and the environment, with promises to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change, repeal the Climate Change Act and scrap green subsidies.

"UKIP will abolish green taxes and levies and withdraw from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, reducing fuel bills and enhancing industrial competitiveness at a stroke. The Climate Change Act is doing untold damage. UKIP will repeal it."