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Cycling and the General Election: Do the UK’s political parties care about cycling and active travel? We take a deep dive into the 2024 manifestos

On this special election-themed episode of the road.cc Podcast, we dissect the good, bad, ugly, and non-existent when it comes to cycling in each party’s manifestos and ask, why are all their active travel policies so vague?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or become adept at turning off the TV as soon as you hear Question Time’s twinkly theme, then you’ll be well aware that the next UK general election is fast approaching. And with under two weeks to go until the polling stations open, all of the main parties have launched their manifestos, setting out the key reasons why you should vote for them on 4 July.

Which leads us to the big question in this week’s special election-themed episode of the road.cc Podcast: What are the parties saying about cycling?

 

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Helping him dive headfirst into the key parties’ manifestos – and scavenge any scrap of detail from them about active travel (which was more difficult than you might think) – Ryan was joined by road.cc stalwart Simon MacMichael and Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at Cycling UK.

With Cycling UK launching its own five-year plan for active travel recently – which has called on whichever party takes the keys next month to No. 10 to boost cycling funding considerably and reconsider how our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods are planned – Sarah, Ryan, and Simon dissect the good, bad, ugly, and frankly non-existent of the different parties’ pledges related to getting about by bike.

Cyclist and Palace of Westminster (copyright Simon MacMichael)

> Does cycling policy need a reset after the election?

Far from the relatively optimistic outlook on active travel of the 2019 manifestos across party lines – which, as we note was a different time when it comes to the political consensus on cycling – they find in this year’s plans for government very little on a topic that continues to stoke ‘culture war’ debates in the national press.

While Sarah’s cycling reference league table highlights that almost every party barely mentions cycling or cyclists at all in their manifestos (Reform’s document fails to refer to cycling at all, which we took as a positive sign), we discover that when they are mentioned, it tends to be – at least when we look at the parties fighting to be the government – quite vague with little detail on spending, siloed from other forms of transport, or sometimes hostile (the ‘war on motorists’, anyone?).

And finally, we ask: Do any of these manifesto pledges, based on short-term vote winning strategies, actually matter? And should we instead be optimistic about the direction of active travel over the next five years?

The road.cc Podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the road.cc Podcast. It’s also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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15 comments

Avatar
chrisonabike | 1 month ago
7 likes

Do the UK’s political parties care about cycling and active travel? 

I know this one! The answer is "no". Exceptions being the Greens (in Scotland they did indeed get some positive action as a coalition partner - see the now-dead Bute House agreements). Honorable mention for Welsh Labour under the last leader with a reduction to the default residential speed limit and a commitment to reduce road-building.

The rest? Maybe "thoughts and prayers", on a good day.

Caveat - I'm not familiar with Plaid's view on this or the views of parties in NI.

Avatar
quiff replied to chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
3 likes
chrisonabike wrote:

I'm not familiar with Plaid's view on this or the views of parties in NI.

Plaid put a flyer through the door asking what my priorities are for transport in my local area. The tick box options were basically more buses, better rail, or fix potholes. I shall be sending a free text response.   

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chrisonabike replied to quiff | 4 weeks ago
1 like

I am a little disappointed, but I can't say surprised.  They want to be elected!  And it seems in this election especially the thinking is "don't look different from the current lot; meanwhile declare you couldn't be more unlike them".

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dubwise | 1 month ago
0 likes

Political parties are only interested in themselves and their cronies, and to hell with the rest.

How anyone can vote for any of them is beyond me.

Remember Starmer refused to after the vile monster Savile whilst dpp. As for the tories...

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Rendel Harris replied to dubwise | 1 month ago
17 likes
dubwise wrote:

Remember Starmer refused to after the vile monster Savile whilst dpp. As for the tories...

That is an absolute flat out lie. The case against Savile was dropped by the police and a CPS reviewing lawyer because the witnesses indicated they would not testify in court. Starmer was in no way involved with the decision nor was he consulted on it; when the facts of the matter came out it was Starmer who ordered an investigation and changed and improved procedures to make sure it never happened again. Criticise his attitudes, his policies, his personality and so forth as much as you like but don't tell such disgusting lies about him.

https://fullfact.org/online/keir-starmer-prosecute-jimmy-savile/

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ktache replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
12 likes

Wasnt it the (to the Tories) beloved Thatcher who, against advice, enobled the disgusting Saville? Giving him more cover for his foul deeds.

Boris not thinking though things again when repeating his lies.

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perce replied to ktache | 1 month ago
7 likes

Exactly. Just about to say the same thing.

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Lozcan | 1 month ago
0 likes

Vote lib dem, green or independent.
Have you seen what Starmer did to the rape justice system?

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Rendel Harris replied to Lozcan | 1 month ago
10 likes
Lozcan wrote:

Have you seen what Starmer did to the rape justice system?

Um, increased convictions and was praised by leading female campaigners as having done "a huge amount of work to improve prosecution of rape and sexual offences"? From The Independent,1/2/2022:

Quote:

Dominic Raab has been fiercely criticised by women’s campaigners for falsely accusing Keir Starmer of overseeing falling conviction rates for sexual offences and rape while Director of Public Prosecutions.

Raab, the deputy Prime Minister, incorrectly stated convictions rates for sexual offences and rape declined while the Labour leader was DPP and head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) from 2008 to 2013.

“I think it is quite right to look at Keir Starmer’s record between 2008 and 2013,” Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programmeon Tuesday morning. “Conviction rates for sexual offences and rape fell between 2008 and 2013.”

“It is to do with Keir Starmer’s leadership as DPP.”

Data from the CPS shows their conviction rates increased from 57.7 per cent to 60.3 per cent from 2007-8 and 2013-14.

Harriet Wistrich, an award-winning human rights lawyer and director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, told The Independent: “The important point to make is Keir Starmer did a huge amount of work to improve prosecution of rape and sexual offences.

“He was quite revolutionary as a Director of Public Prosecutions in that respect. He did far more than other DPPs to improve the prosecution approach to rape and sexual offences.

“It is hugely outrageous to criticise him. The collapse in rape convictions has been in the last four or five years.”

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Hirsute replied to Lozcan | 1 month ago
5 likes

Due to a complete failure to support justice, under the Tories someone arrested today for rape will not face trial until 2029.

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argiebarge replied to Lozcan | 1 month ago
0 likes

I wouldnt critisise Labour on here, the perpetually offended forums squad regulars will be in out in force presently. They still wake up shouting the name Boris long after he's thankfully shuffled off out of the limelight.

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perce replied to argiebarge | 1 month ago
3 likes

Oh no, no. I don't do that anymore - I wake up shouting Novak these days. Do keep up.

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Hirsute replied to argiebarge | 1 month ago
5 likes

But it wasn't a criticism of labour it was a falsehood about starmer as dpp.
People do criticise the Tories a lot. This does not mean they are labour supporters or that they think labour can't be criticised.

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Steve K replied to argiebarge | 4 weeks ago
4 likes
argiebarge wrote:

I wouldnt critisise Labour on here, the perpetually offended forums squad regulars will be in out in force presently. They still wake up shouting the name Boris long after he's thankfully shuffled off out of the limelight.

There's plenty to criticise Labour about without spreading proven lies.

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kingleo | 1 month ago
10 likes

There is nothing in the pamphlets both the main parties sent to me about what they will do for the votes of the 6.5 million cyclists, but for motorists, they want to open Hammersmith Bridge again to reduce pollution and traffic jams. When it was open there were 2-mile traffic jams on the road that leads to the bridge and gridlock traffic jams around the Barnes Common area during the day - at the moment with the bridge closed to motor vehicles there is very little traffic and pollution on the road that leads to the bridge.

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