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Drivers need to be freed from “burden and tyranny” of owning cars, cycling campaigner tells Labour conference

London Cycling Campaign’s Ashok Sinha told the fringe event that cuts to Transport for London’s budget were “bonkers”

London’s motorists need to be freed from the “burden” of car usage through improvements to active travel schemes, public transport, and the introduction of road charging measures, says the London Cycling Campaign’s Chief Executive Ashok Sinha.

Sinha was speaking earlier this week in Liverpool at a Labour Party conference fringe event titled, “A gear shift on low-carbon transport”.

He told the event, chaired by the Green Alliance’s head of climate policy Helena Bennett, that around 10 million car journeys are made every day in London, a figure the cycling campaigner says needs to be drastically reduced if the UK is to reach its climate targets.

> Transport for London accused of “breaking promises” after funding for cycle training cut 

“It’s a toss of a coin whether we keep climate change under 1.5 degrees,” Sinha said. “We’ve seen improvements in all sectors in London – except transport emissions.”

The London Cycling Campaign CEO criticised the cuts to Transport for London’s budget – a result of the body’s precarious financial situation and current reliance on short-term government bailouts – as “bonkers” and told attendees that a major expansion of public transport in the capital was essential if people are to be encouraged to ditch their cars, MyLondon reports.

“We need to free people from the burden and tyranny of owning tons of metal that sits unused 90 percent of the time,” he said.

Sinha also argued that initiatives such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and potential smart road user charging methods are important “tactical solutions” to discouraging car use.

> London needs to talk about roads pricing for cars 

The cycling campaigner has long been an advocate for road pricing for cars in the capital, though he has insisted that people on bikes should be exempt from any charge.

“There are many of us who sit back and think, well, hasn’t the time now come for road pricing? Not for everyone, because when you look at cycling as being part of the solution, it’s [about] incentivising a shift to cycling,” he told in 2016.

“We’re trying to disincentivise excessive motor traffic use and shifting people out of those vehicles onto bikes, so it doesn’t make sense to apply that road charge to cycling.”

At this week’s Labour conference, Sinha said: “It’s very difficult but we need to look at the demand side, with smart and fair road user charging. I can’t see a way of reaching net zero targets without it. It’s a massive political battle… It’s a toxic issue.”

> Active travel to be “first choice for our daily journeys,” says minister 

Yesterday we reported that Lucy Frazer, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to active travel, including cycling and walking, in the first such announcement since Liz Truss won the Conservative Party leadership election and took over from Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Frazer, the Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, was appointed to her current ministerial position earlier this month after Truss replaced Grant Shapps with Anne-Marie Trevelyan as Secretary of State for Transport.

In a written question, Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York and Shadow Minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, asked Trevelyan whether “she will introduce a funding pilot aimed at increasing the number of people who shift from using cars to public transport.”

In response, Frazer said: “As set out in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, we want public transport and walking and cycling to be the natural first choice for our daily journeys.

“This shift has the potential to save significant amounts of carbon, improve air quality, and reduce noise and congestion – improving health and wellbeing for all. We are undertaking pilot projects which will explore new ways for how we can use our cars differently and less often.”

She continued: “For example, we have provided £92 million to fund local authorities in Solent Transport, Nottingham and Derby, West Midlands, and the West of England to become Future Transport Zones and pilot a range of innovative mode shift efforts, such as mobility as a service apps, or paying ‘mobility credits’ to people in return for giving up their cars.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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