Thursday, 23 February 2012

David Cameron: cycling in our cities 'is taking your life into your hands' and promises piffling £25million. As the lady says, 'Grannies want to cycle too'. Says it all, frankly - My review of last night's Flashride at Parliament

This glamorous granny has made exactly the right
point. Cyclesafe Flashride is about all of us
Yesterday, David Cameron stood up at Prime minister's question time and said this in response to a question by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert: "Anyone who has got on a bicycle, particularly in one of our busier cities, knows you are taking your life into your own hands every time you do so and so we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer." You can see the PM's full statement on The Times's website here.

Cameron went on to announce a handful of low-budget investments that the government will support - some mirrors, some cycling training. Nothing terribly significant.

Last night, the police reckon that around 2,000 people came to the Flashride at Parliament. My own view is that most of them came to say that the sort of status quo Cameron was promising is no longer enough. In actual fact, Cameron scrapped Cycling England, the poorly-funded cycling body and has replaced it with some dribs and drabs of money for mirrors  and some cycle training. Mirrors are nice but not the answer. The Dutch road safety institute thinks this is completely the wrong way to go about things, for example. Cycle training for children is a must-have, frankly, not something the Prime minister should be too proud of.

But the point is that it is no longer enough to fob cycling off with handfuls of cash on isolated projects here and there. I said last week that - for the timebeing at least - those of us who cycle are a small niche. We are given only the odd niche bits of infrastructure. But many many more people want to cycle. And they don't feel they have the choice to cycle because of the way our roads are designed and because of the culture of our roads and traffic laws. To get these people on their bikes means cycling needs to be included as a formal mode of transport, one that involves sustained and consistent investment. The government spent nearly £4billion on UK roads last year. Cameron announced a whopping £15-25 million for cycling in the Commons and none of that is about building the sorts of facilities that would encourage more glamorous grandmothers like the lady pictured above to hop on their bike to the shops.

The editor of The Times wrote this today: "Our cities must be reimagined so that the cyclist is no hindrance to the motorist, and the motorist no danger in return....It is a campaign that intends to change the way we live". Hard-hitting stuff.



I said something clunkier on the BBC last night (forgive me, I was slightly nervous to make sure last night was a success) but with the same goal: "I thought [Cameron] was completely spot-on. He’s absolutely right that it’s quite difficult to cycle in UK cities. The thing is it shouldn’t be difficult to cycle in the UK and that’s a factor of how much investment we put into the UK, which has been pretty minimal and pretty patchy.”


Sums it all up, really.

Today, MPs will sit down and debate issues around cycling. I'm keen to know how they repsond to these sorts of questions. 

In the meantime, a huge thank you goes to Ian Austin MP (Lab) and Julian Huppert MP (LibDem) and Steve Brine (Con) for working so hard on this issue and to the rest of the All Parliamentary Cycling Group. An equally large vote of thanks goes to the Metropolitan Police who advised and supported us on last night's ride. At one point, an idiot in a BMW X5 exited the House of Commons car park then tried to ram his way through 2,000 people on bikes in Parliament Square. I'm pleased to say the man was swiftly surrounded by a number of very grumpy policemen before accelerating off very harshly. I don't know what, if any action, was taken but the man was clearly abusing his powers. Above all, my thanks to my co-conspirator Mark Ames of ibikelondon blog, to the 30 people who volunteered to help marshal last night's ride and to the London Cycling Campaign for taking centre stage on these issues and leading from the front. 

Have a look at what the BBC has to say. And then book this date in your diary. Saturday 28th April, central London. A week before the Mayoral election. We want to bring 10,000 people together for a Flashride with children, parents, dogs, commuters, racing bikers, the whole community that believes cycling should be made normal for all of us. Oh, and please, more glamorous grandmothers. The London Cycling Campaign is taking the lead on this and I'm whole-heartedly behind it. Brompton bicycles and the Dutch Embassy in London have backed it. I hope many more of us will back it with our pedals and that more sponsors will come forwards too.