The three main political parties are now competing for cyclists’ votes, say one of the UK’s leading campaign groups, the CTC. Last night, while MPs debated measures to increase funding for cycling and grow the number of journeys made by bike, 5,000 people met outside parliament to demand politicians take action to make riding safer.
The public clamour for better cycling conditions appears to have impressed itself on politicians, and Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at the CTC, said he was surprised at the pace at which parties have developed manifestos to appeal to cyclists. “There is now a clear competition on between the parties as to who can sound the most cycle-friendly in their elections,” he told BikeRadar today.
Maria Eagle, the Labour shadow transport secretary, has laid out an eight-point plan to give cycling a generous and predictable investment budget, put measures in place to improve safety, overhaul the justice system in favour of injured or killed cyclists and make sure new roads are built with cyclists’ needs accounted for. And, last month, the Liberal Democrats released details of a cycle-friendly policy paper they will debate at the upcoming party conference.
Wrapping up the debate last night, transport minister Norman Baker said the coalition is the most pro-cycling government ever. Some MPs, such as Ian Austin, have said the nation should follow the example set by Londoners, who made cycling an electoral issue during the 2012 mayoral campaigns.
However, Geffen was cautious about the amount of political territory cycling will occupy when billed against bigger issues such as taxation, defence and employment.
“The mayor doesn’t have those really big issues that are on the agenda for national voters; in London elections, keeping London moving is actually one of the big things on the mayor’s plate,” he said.
Geffen added a hopeful note too: “But we will have a crack at it because there is clearly the realisation that the cycling vote is there to be played for in an election where voter turnout is likely to be low.
“It could be that quite marginal votes make quite a difference, so the parties are playing for small factions. We’ve got to take that opportunity to make the cycling vote count – and, by making it count, get the money that increases the size of [the vote].”