Surly Disc Trucker outside a polling booth
Votes are in - what's next for cycling? Photo: Cycling UK

Hung parliament - what next for cycling?

As Britain comes to terms with an election result no one predicted, Cycling UK’s Sam Jones ponders what this might mean for the cycling agenda over the next Parliament.

It’s hardly surprising that transport, let alone cycling, attracted such little air-time as an issue worth debating or, indeed, fighting over during the snap election.

That’s not to say cycling has been ignored, it’s just been there in the background with brief mentions tucked away within manifestos. In a way this is worth celebrating as, until the last election (only two years earlier!), cycling was ignored by pretty much all parties apart from those with strong environmental concerns. 

Cycling’s ongoing inclusion in this recent flurry of rushed manifestos shows it is continuing to grow and become more mainstream. This can only bode well for the future. It’s a small beginning, but an important one that Cycling UK and our other campaigning partners will continue building upon.

With a hung parliament, Cycling UK will look to make sure all parties realise the enormous health, societal, environmental and economic benefits of cycling. Now more than ever do we need consensus. Fortunately, several notable champions for cycling (and walking) survived the night and will be returning to Westminster. 

With a hung parliament, Cycling UK will look to make sure all parties realise the enormous health, societal, environmental and economic benefits of cycling.

Sam Jones, Cycling UK Campaigns Coordinator

We’re still ploughing away through the lengthy list of 650 MPs, but we’re pleased to see Devon based Dr Sarah Wollaston (Con, Totnes) and Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter) coming back - there must be something in that West Country water! Both are well established, and respected voices not just for cycling but also around the wider active travel agenda. 

In Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner (Lab) retained his seat, defeating Cycling UK’s independent trustee and a former co-chair of the All Party Cycling Group, Dr Julian Huppert (Lib Dem). Zeichner held responsibility for the cycling portfolio in Corbyn’s former Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Transport Minister, and regularly held the Government to task over the despatch box on issues ranging from potholes to the delayed Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS).

Sadly for road safety campaigning, former MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem) lost his position as Labour’s Alex Sobel took 44.1% of the votes to Mulholland’s 35%. Mulholland had worked tirelessly on justice issues for road victims, and would have been a useful ally during the next Parliament as our work will begin in earnest on the Ministry of Justice’s driving offences and sentencing review.

While the inherent difficulties of governing with a hung parliament are yet to be fully understood, the Conservative deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could herald more central governmental investment in Northern Ireland, as was speculated on the BBC’s Today Programme election special this morning. 

If we do begin to see more investment in Northern Ireland, this could present better opportunities to secure funding for active travel there, and allow all those Members of the Legislative Assembly to make good on their pledge to spend at least £10 per head on cycling measures.

What about the rest of the country? It’s unlikely that the changes in the make-up of the governing parties will mean any change for cycling in Wales or Scotland (despite the Conservative surge in Scotland which saw them gain 13 seats). Nor is it likely under this Government’s current leadership of Theresa May that the path England was set upon with the publication of the CWIS in April is going to deviate in the near future. 

There is potential for real change provided there is, as some media reports suggest there must be, a new leadership contest in the Conservative party. Unfortunately, unlike her predecessor David Cameron who called for a “cycling revolution”, May’s position is unknown. A likely contender waiting in the wings / hovering like a vulture is former London Mayor, Boris Johnson (Con, Henley). 

Whatever feelings people might hold for the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, his record in London for improving cycling in the face of pressure from both business lobby groups and his own party should not be doubted – even if the foundations for his actions had been laid by his predecessor, Ken Livingston. Johnson has shown that he is committed and willing to make the tough decisions needed to help more people of all abilities cycle safely and more often – something which perhaps cycling needs now if it is to be more than a manifesto’s footnote.

However, at time of writing, May will remain Prime Minister and thoughts to succession can only be speculation. Cycling UK will continue monitoring the ongoing situation, and engage with the relevant ministers and secretaries of state as they are announced over the coming days. In addition, we will also be looking to identify our champions of this parliament from among the new and returning MPs.

The fight is by no means done, and we’ve a long way to go until we see such measures to tackle obesity and bike theft as the Prime Minister’s Maidenhead opponent, Lord Buckethead, suggested are taken up (free bikes for everyone!). However, with the weekend now approaching along with election fatigue setting after three years of voting, we can now get on with the most important event of June 2017: Bike Week!

SamJones