We all love a good hustings, and Cambridge Cycling Campaign has been putting a range of questions to the prospective candidates in the East Chesterton local elections. So far only Ian Manning (Liberal Democrat) and Peter Burkinshaw (UKIP) have responded, but the replies of the latter make interesting reading in what's widely held to be the cycling capital of the UK.
Burkinshaw first affirms that he has no experience of cycling in Cambridge, before launching into a number of seemingly heartfelt but certainly ill-judged attacks on the cyclists of the city. Asked "would you agree that creating very high-quality cycling routes to encourage new people to cycle offers by far the best cost-benefit ratio for transport improvements that facilitate growth of the City and surrounding areas?", he replies, "You are asking for benefits paid for by other road users. I would prefer more car parks." And it just gets worse from there, really.
That answer is one of six (out of eleven) that either confirms Burkinshaw's belief that cyclists are "stealing road space from the people who pay for it", or calls on cyclists to "pay for their own" facilities. Such talk, obviously, belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how taxation works. As the ipayroadtax.com website very ably explains, roads aren't paid for out of ring-fenced funds but from general taxation: everyone pays, and cyclists – the majority of whom are car owners too – pay as much as anyone else. Indeed it could be argued that they pay more, since several studies have concluded that cycling is a net benefit to the economy, whereas driving is a net cost: driving, when everything is taken into account, costs an economy more than the taxes it raises. Everyone pays for that.
Burkinshaw's not finished though. Next he takes refuge in anecdote - "On several occasions, I have had to stop or dodge cyclists riding through red lights" before, amazingly, claiming that "Cars are not a danger to other road users". That's qualified by him suggesting that they need to act sensibly, but the KSI figures for the UK suggest that's not always the case.
His finishing comments are some of his finest work. He thunders that "Road space is required for motorised vehicles who pay for it. It shouldn't be wasted on people who don't", but in the very next sentence claims that "I walk to most places in Cambridge" - presumably that's on pavements that he's not paying for? after all, there's no pedestrian tax. By his own logic, they should really be dug up.
The best is saved for last. "if everybody cycled, there would be no roads to ride on", he claims, as if a lack of cars would cause them to spontaneously diasppear. His point, presumably, is that they wouldn't be there if not for cars, though we know thanks to Cartlon Reid's forthcoming book – Roads Were Not Built For Cars – that this simply isn't true, and nowhere is it less true than in cities.
That's it from him. Save for his last comment, "What is 'sustainable transport'? Is it using things that other people pay for?"
To be fair to Burkinshaw, his comments aren't far removed from UKIP official policy. Their manifesto doesn't have much on cycling, but where it does touch on the subject, it's mostly concerned with making sure cyclists behave and don't get in the way of the 'paying' road users. Mandatory third party insurance and training, fees for bike parking and additional powers to control cyclists are all covered. Promoting cycling, and provision for cyclists, aren't.
10.2 We believe that there needs to be a better balance of rights and responsibilities for pedal cyclists, with too much aggressive abuse of red lights, pedestrian crossings and a lack of basic safety and road courtesy.
10.6 UKIP would consult on the desirability of minimum third party liability insurance cover for cyclists - a simple annual flat rate registration ‘Cycledisc’, stuck to the bicycle frame, to cover damage to cars and others, which are currently unprotected. The Cycledisc should also carry clear identification details, which will help counter bicycle theft, and deter dangerous cyclist behaviour. We support provision of cycle parking at reasonable charges.
10.7 UKIP believes that basic cycle and safety training should be made mandatory, and be funded in schools or via local authorities. UKIP supports the campaign work of national cycling organisations.
10.9 Local authorities should be given additional powers to enforce a ‘cyclists dismount’ or ‘no cycling’ regulation where there are safety concerns – such as on busy roundabouts, junctions or bus lanes, or where the road would be too narrowed by cycle lanes and cause unacceptable delays to traffic
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.