English local elections 2022: Getting there with cycling

English local elections 2022: Getting there with cycling

With local elections happening in May across England, it’s time for politicians to step up, be bold, carefully plan and speedily deliver the cycle lanes and safe cycling infrastructure we all need. Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore explains what needs to happen, how we need to sell this to politicians, and what you can do to help persuade candidates to commit, to deliver – to make it happen

Ask a candidate in May’s council elections whether they support cycling, and many will fidget and fluster before fudging the answer.

Ask them whether they want a healthier community, a revitalised and thriving high street, improvements in air quality, and for your council to do more to reduce carbon emissions locally, and their confidence and willingness to make commitments will miraculously return.

Their answers will often depend on how we frame our questions, and that’s the challenge ahead of various elections in May – how to sell the benefits of cycling and secure wider support from candidates.


Cycle lanes infographic
Cycle lanes infographic

 

Where are elections taking place in May?

On 5 May, there are national elections in Northern Ireland (NI) to the NI Assembly, council elections in every local authority in Scotland and Wales, and elections in some, but not every local authority in England.

Find out more about Cycling UK’s manifestos in Scotland, Wales and NI and how to support our manifesto petitions in those nations.

However, it’s the council elections in parts of England I’m focussing on in this article.

 

Take action

Making cycling matter

Whenever we run an election campaign linked to cycling, someone always asks me whether active travel matters in elections. The answer is, of course, that we need to make it matter, and campaigning can make a difference.

One example was our manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election last year, which included an ask to spend at least 10% of the transport budget on active travel. The SNP pledged to do this, and the Scottish Government has since committed to reach this target by the end of this parliament.

That followed persistent campaigning by Cycling UK and others such as Pedal on Parliament and Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote, and shows that you can make a difference through campaigning.

Our manifesto for cycling

Of course, it would be naive not to recognise that councils have multiple pressing issues to deal with. But that’s precisely why we need to shout about how investing in cycling can change so much, so positively.

It helps create towns, cities and rural communities designed for people, where more everyday journeys are cycled, our air is cleaner, our health and wellbeing are prioritised, recovering from coronavirus and building back stronger, greener, together, and more actively.

That’s the vision for cycling we’ve set out in our manifesto for the English local elections, which sets out ten asks for political parties, councils and candidates including three key messages:

  • Prioritise the development of a connected network of safe, direct cycling and walking routes – ensuring these plans are at the heart of future Local Transport and Development Plans.
  • Commit sufficient funding for active travel – to deliver these networks and achieve the Government’s 2025 target to double levels of cycling.
  • Deliver cycle infrastructure in line with national design standards – so they are safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities.

Highways responsibility in English Councils

Whilst we’d hope that our manifesto would resonate throughout England, our election cycle means that elections only take place in 146 local authorities this May.

Making matters more complex, we also have some areas in England with a ‘two tier’ system, where the ‘upper tier’ County Council has ‘highways responsibility’ for transport, including how much is spent on what, whilst the ‘lower tier’ district or borough council has responsibility for matters including planning, but not transport.

While planning and other decisions by lower tier authorities can have some influence on active travel policy and provision, it’s the upper tier highway authority which controls the transport budget. Consequently, Cycling UK’s local authority election campaign in England is focussed on local authorities with highways responsibility.

Show your support by signing our petition

If there’s an election taking place where you live for a council with highways responsibility, please sign our petition to show your support.

 

Take action

 

Whilst you can’t sign the petition if you live elsewhere in England, if you’re a cycle campaigner in a lower tier council with elections, you can of course still use our manifesto, tools and guides on the Cycle Advocacy Network resources page to help with your own local campaigning.

What if I live in London?

We’re not campaigning in London for these elections, where all the boroughs have elections in May, and all of them have highways responsibility.

That’s because our friends at London Cycling Campaign (LCC) are planning what we know will be a fantastic London election campaign.

If you live in London, our England online action will redirect you to LCC’s campaign page, where their campaign action will be live in March.

What happens if I sign the petition?

Last year, over 3,000 people signed our petition for the Scottish Parliament election, and we were able to take that to the political parties in Scotland, which helped secure commitments to our manifesto asks.

In the run-up to elections in May, we’ll be letting sitting politicians, candidates and political parties know that people support action to deliver on our cycling manifestos.

But they all need to hear that this is what people want, because the numbers do matter, so please sign up and share the petition widely with people you know. Our online action includes social media share buttons and suggested tweets and posts.

Initially, we’re asking people to sign our manifesto petition, so we can let political parties and politicians know what we’re asking for, and that it’s popular, and urge them to be brave but, once we know who's standing in the elections, we’ll create an online action people can use to contact their candidates.

I’ve signed the petition, what else can I do?

If all you have time for is to sign the petition, that’s still fantastic, but we also need more people to get more involved in cycle campaigning locally.

You can choose how much time you commit to this, and it doesn’t have to be a big commitment, but if you’re not already involved in your local cycling campaign group this is a great time to get involved, as many groups will be actively campaigning around the elections.

You can find Cycling UK affiliated cycling campaign groups, and other groups by just searching for the following online: “[name of your nearest town, city] cycling campaign”, or get more involved locally by joining the Cycle Advocacy Network (CAN).

Tools, guides and resources to help people campaign around the election

On the CAN webpage you’ll find links to various resources and guides in our toolkit for campaigners. These include guides on:

We’ll be adding to these guides and toolkits in the run-up to May’s elections, with guides coming shortly on taking your local candidates for a cycle ride, creating an advocacy plan to influence decision makers, and how to run an election hustings event, all of which will be published on the CAN resource page.

What if my campaign group wants to ask for something else?

The precise actions needed to make cycling and walking natural choices for short journeys will of course vary in different towns, cities and rural communities, so our manifesto prioritises the delivery of connected networks of cycling and walking routes to high standards, and the need for action and urgency.

But local campaigners and groups may well want to ask candidates to commit to deliver a particular scheme, do something else, or resolve a specific barrier to cycling, and that’s fantastic, because our manifesto is designed so that: those without the time or the desire to become more involved in local campaigning can show their support for some general asks and commitments; we can show local politicians that there is wider public support, beyond the actively engaged campaigners and groups; and to provide some general headline asks which will hopefully be helpful for existing campaigners and groups.

If you’re actively involved in local campaigning with specific local asks, our manifesto will hopefully help you secure wider support, but not replace what you’re doing.

Getting there with cycling – make it happen

So, if you agree that getting more people walking and cycling some of those everyday short journeys has massive individual, environmental, economic and community benefits, check whether there’s an election where you live.

If there is, then please sign our petition so we can let politicians and candidates know that it’s time for every local authority to deliver connected networks of active travel routes, investing in the infrastructure and safety improvements needed to get more people moving more actively.

Let them know it’s time to get there with cycling – and they need to make it happen.

 

Take action

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