Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Labour Manifesto - Cycling

What's in the Labour Manifesto for cyclists?

Not a lot.

The word "cycling" doesn't appear once, although the word cycle does - "trebling
the number of secure cycle storage spaces at rail stations". There's a whole chapter entitled "A Green Recovery", but this concentrates on insulation, power generation and recycling. There's no strategy for greening transport; indeed no mention of transport in that chapter beyond "protecting rural bus services".

Chapter 1 addresses transport. It says "Britain needs to invest in modern, high-capacity and low carbon transport infrastructure". However, there is an almost complete disconnect between that sentence and the rest of the chapter. Congestion is tackled by "extending hard-shoulder running on motorways" and "targeted motorway widening". National road pricing is ruled out. Roadworks are targeted by "increasing tenfold the penalties on utilities who allow work to overrun". And of course "we support a third runway at Heathrow" although "we will not allow additional runways to proceed at any other airport". There is a plan "to promote the rapid take-up of electric and  low-carbon cars, we will ensure there are 100,000 electric vehicle charging points by the end of the next Parliament".

As a cycling campaigner, I would be interested in any measures that promote cycling or reduce car-dependency, of which there is an almost complete dearth. In terms of transport, high-speed rail is a good thing but is very long-term. Apart from that, I can't see any measures that promote greener transport. Motorway widening is very expensive; this and hard-shoulder running on motorways will increase traffic levels and ultimately lead to more congestion. I'm not sold on electric cars because they are still cars and don't solve the problems of congestion and road safety. Also, at this point the electricity they run on is in large measure fossil-fuel-generated, so they're not much greener than internal combustion engined cars. If there were a wholesale shift to electric cars, we would need a massive increase in renewable electricity generation to make the cars low-carbon. Charging points isn't enough.

This blog is about cycling so I'm not going to launch my own manifesto here. It does seem a shame that the potential for cycling to reduce congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and promote health has been completely ignored. The government published an Active Travel Strategy, in which it recognises all these benefits, but it doesn't have a plan in its manifesto to realise the vision. Labour has had 13 years in which to demonstrate commitment to cycling, and they've not done anywhere near enough. What are we supposed to conclude, other than that they don't take cycling seriously?

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