One of the country’s top broadcast journalists, Jon Snow, has said a lack of political leadership is stopping the bike achieving equal status with the car in the UK.
The Channel 4 news presenter and cycling advocate told the final evidence session of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry that Britain needs political “leadership from the very top and on a big scale”, if it’s to catch up to Western European countries with developed cycling infrastructure. His calls were echoed by Sustrans, who called for prime minister David Cameron to “take cycling to the top of the agenda”.
Snow, who described himself as a “jobbing cyclist” for his 14-minute daily commute from home to office, said: “I would still argue that, in the urban space, cycling is still a dangerous activity. My cycling journeys very rarely intersect with a coherent route that protects me.”
Bikes are still the poor relations to the car, Snow said, citing “the biggest inner city redevelopment anywhere in western Europe”, around King’s Cross in London, where there is “no physical provision for bicycles”.
Marking out cycling lanes wasn’t enough, he added, calling for cycle infrastructure to be built into every development plan: “Every planning application has to take into account a cycling element. Until there’s acceptance of its [cycling’s] existence we’re not going to move from anywhere.”
The presenter, a patron of Sustrans and president of the CTC, added that any politician who “nailed their colours” to community cycling would “leave a legacy that would last for many, many generations”, but noted that politicians don’t see cycling as a big vote winner.
He also highlighted The Times’ Cities fit for Cycling campaign, triggered by the serious injury of one of their reporters, Mary Bowers, in 2011 – she is still in a coma. Snow said the newspaper’s campaign had meant cyclists weren’t seen as “loonies” any longer and were part of the mainstream.
Snow gave evidence to the inquiry alongside Andrew Gilligan, the newly appointed London cycling commissioner, and Isabel Dedring, the capital’s deputy mayor. Nick Hunt, from the Crown Prosecution Service, and Mark Milsom, representing the Association of Chief Police Officers, also appeared before the panel. Two ministers from the Department of Transport, Norman Baker MP and Stephen Hammond MP, were also called to give evidence.
The Get Britain Cycling sessions, co-chaired by Ian Austin MP and Julian Huppert MP, are now complete and the group of peers and MPs will publish their report on 24 April 2013.