Cycling must become a battle ground at the next general election to produce long-term road safety improvements and make the activity more accessible, said Ian Austin, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG).
Speaking yesterday after the government pledged a £148m investment to create safer roads and more cycleways around the UK, Labour MP Austin said cyclists should challenge local candidates about their commitment to pedal power in the lead-up to the 2015 general election.
He also urged riders to write to their MPs demanding they attend a parliamentary debate next month – 18 recommendations designed to improve cycling conditions in the UK will be up for discussion. The suggestions were outlined in an APPCG report published in April. National cycling charity CTC have set up a page where voters can send an automated letter to their MP.
“I think the big challenge is to get all the parties competing now to come up with the best plans for cycling before the election,” Austin told BikeRadar. “To be fair to the government I think [its] announcement is a step in the right direction but is it everything we want? No, of course it isn’t, but you’re not going to get everything you want overnight and in one go.”
Austin, MP for Dudley North, said voters should follow the lead of Londoners in the 2012 mayoral election, where cycling was forced onto the electoral agenda. In the run-up to voting, candidates were petitioned by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to ‘Go Dutch’ and improve problematic infrastructure points.
Since his re-election as mayor, Boris Johnson has outlined a £913m, decade-long programme of road improvements and appointed cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan to co-ordinate improvements across the UK capital.
However, Johnson has been attacked for failing to deliver on his promises quickly enough. In July, protests were held in the wake of three cyclists’ deaths on London roads, which, the LCC said were preventable. At the time, Mike Cavenett, spokesman for the LCC said: “Over 60 people have died on London’s streets since he [Johnson] came to power – it’s not good enough.”