Our general election manifesto – what we’re asking for and why it’s important

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What is Cycling UK doing to ensure our future MPs, and the next UK government, understand the benefits of making cycling a safe and obvious choice for all? Cycling UK’s campaigns officer Connor Cashell answers your questions and shares how you can take action to support our campaign

1. What have you done so far to put cycling on the political agenda this election and beyond?

We are working hard to put cycling on the political agenda and ensure candidates standing across all four nations understand the massive benefits of providing healthy and sustainable transport choices, such as reducing toxic air pollution, tackling the climate crisis, rejuvenating our high streets and town centres and easing the pressure on our national health services.

To kick off the general election campaign, we first sent out an information pack to candidates, giving them the answers for common questions about active travel that may come up on the doorstep, and opening the door for further conversations and meetings down the line.

We’ve already had positive responses from lots of candidates, with many on a list for meetings post the election, most of whom (on current polling) are likely to be elected as new MPs.

We later launched Freedom to move – a manifesto for cycling, emailing more than 2,000 candidates, across all four nations, to ask them to pledge to support our six manifesto asks to enable people to live happier, healthier, and greener lives through cycling:

  1. Deliver long-term investment in cycling, walking and wheeling
  2. Provide better transport choices to reduce traffic
  3. Build truly sustainable new homes and developments
  4. Make our streets safer
  5. Help everyone to access nature
  6. Fix our failing road traffic laws

So far, we have received an incredible response – more than 300 candidates have already pledged their support thanks to over 1,700 of you who have written to them.

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2. How does devolution affect these issues?

Some policy areas that are mentioned in our six manifesto asks, such as transport and planning, are devolved to the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the Northern Ireland Assembly. This means they aren’t directly controlled by the UK government.

But it’s important that our MPs and UK government in Westminster support these principles by implementing policies that benefit active travel where they have the power to, and by supporting similar efforts in devolved nations to achieve our manifesto asks.

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3. Manifesto ask: Deliver long-term investment in active travel

Cycling is one of the most cost-effective forms of transport spending. This isn’t just a transport investment but an investment in public health, people, place, environment and the future we want for our children.

Our first manifesto ask calls on candidates to support policies that increase active travel spending, ramping up to at least 10% of the total transport budget within five years. Local authorities need the security of long-term funding to have the confidence to develop and deliver long- term plans for active travel networks.

Government estimates show that cycling and walking schemes have an average BCR (benefit-to-cost ratio) of 1:5.62 – for every £1 spent on UK cycling and walking schemes, £5.62 worth of benefits are achieved – for the economy, our health, happiness and the environment.

Other international studies estimate that cycling infrastructure has an even higher return on investment – up to £13 per £1 spent.

Yet in England outside London, only 2% of total transport spending goes towards active travel (walking, wheeling, and cycling).

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4. Manifesto ask: Provide better transport choices to reduce traffic

Giving people the choice to replace some car journeys by walking, wheeling or cycling, as well as making public and shared transport cheaper and more accessible, is the solution to congestion.

Our second manifesto ask calls on candidates to support policies that produce an integrated transport strategy designed to give people more transport choices, with targets to reduce traffic.

Currently, the UK government produces transport strategies independently, having developed a rail strategy and an active travel strategy without thought as to how they could be more joined up.

Congestion is caused by too many motor vehicles, carrying only one or two people, taking up too much road space. It costs road users around 115 hours and £894 a year.

Where good cycle lanes are built, people use them, and those lanes move more people in less space, freeing up our roads for everyone, including drivers.

Case in point: a three-metre-wide lane can only move 700-1,100 people per hour in cars, but if used by people cycling or walking, that increases to 2,000-6,500 – that’s almost six times as many people.

On London’s Blackfriars Bridge, cycle lanes take up 20% of the road space but accommodate 70% of the people crossing the bridge at peak times.

Reducing traffic in line with net zero targets is good for our health, our communities, our economy and our environment.

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5. Manifesto ask: Build truly sustainable new homes and developments

Our planning system has repeatedly failed to require developers to provide basic active travel infrastructure in new estates. But this can change.

Our third manifesto ask calls on candidates to support policies that improve and invest in the planning system. All new homes and other developments should be required to be built around frequent public transport services, safe streets and excellent walking and cycling networks.

This will ensure that schools, shops, healthcare facilities and green open spaces are accessible within a short walk, wheel or cycle.

Current parking minimums significantly limit housing density and make residents dependent on driving to access basic services.

We are building as many car parks as we are homes, forcing people to drive everywhere, leading to higher levels of physical inactivity, and making our roads more congested and dangerous, especially for the most vulnerable.

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6. Manifesto ask: Make our streets safer

More people will choose active travel if our streets both feel, and are, safer.

Our fourth manifesto ask calls on candidates to support speed reduction measures in both built-up and rural areas to make our streets and roads safer.

Two-thirds of Brits believe our roads are too dangerous to cycle on.

A recent survey conducted by Censuswide for Swapfiets also suggests that as many as nine in 10 British women are afraid of cycling in our towns and cities – with fear of being struck by a vehicle, road rage and safety at night being the primary concerns.

One of the quickest and easiest way to achieve this is by reducing vehicle speeds with speed limits appropriate to the environment.

Almost 30 million people in the UK already live in local authorities with 20mph speed limits – in London, more than half of all roads are limited to 20mph.

The Scottish government has also committed to making 20mph the norm across all its local councils by 2025. According to the University of St Andrews, popular backing for 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh continues to increase since its implementation in 2017-18.

Early indications also show that 20mph speed limits in Wales are working – the number of people injured or killed on 20 and 30mph roads fell by a third in the final quarter of last year.

Lower speeds are good for communities, the environment and our children’s wellbeing. It is also the right move to make healthier alternatives, such as cycling, safer and more appealing.

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7. Manifesto ask: Help everyone to access nature

Our fifth manifesto ask calls on candidates to support policies that increase responsible access to the countryside for everyone, by improving the path network and extending public open-access rights to more landscapes.

The current rights of way network is often inconsistent and confusing for cycling, with situations where a 4m-wide surfaced track can be classed as a public footpath with no right to cycle on it.

The system for changing the status of paths is complex and time consuming, both for individuals and councils. We think it needs to be simplified, to make it easier to create a better-connected network.

More and better-connected spaces close to where people live would realise huge public health benefits. Cycling UK supports the recommendations of the Outdoors for All manifesto, created by a coalition of 41 outdoor recreation and environmental organisations.

In addition, we highlight the need for increased access for people cycling and horse riding on existing paths and tracks across open access land, where the public are already able to roam on foot, and a simplified system for changing the status of public rights of way to create a network fit for the future.

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8. Manifesto ask: Fix our failing road traffic laws

Tragically, hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians die needlessly each year, and will continue to do so until we fix our failing road traffic laws.

Cycling UK’s final manifesto ask calls for a full review of all road traffic laws within the first 12 months of the next government to ensure our roads are safer for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Drivers bear the greatest responsibility to take additional care of all vulnerable road users – children, the elderly, people with disabilities, pedestrians, horse riders and people who cycle.

A total of 95% of pedestrians treated for injuries in collisions are hit by motor vehicles – only 5% are hit by cycles.

Current legal definitions of ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving, as well as cycling, have led to confusion and inconsistency.

Lapses of concentration are regularly dismissed as ‘accidents’ or ‘carelessness’ rather than something that is avoidable, reflecting the attitude that an absence of care and resultant collisions are inevitable.

Thousands of drivers also avoid bans each year despite having more than 12 penalty points on their licence by claiming it would cause them ‘exceptional hardship’. Christopher Gard was one of them:

  • He’d been convicted six times for using his mobile phone while driving but dodged a ban by exploiting this loophole
  • Six weeks later, he drove into and killed cyclist Lee Martin six weeks later – while texting on his phone yet again

These failures leave vulnerable road users lacking confidence in the justice system and does nothing to make them feel that walking and cycling is safe.

Better road traffic law, not amendments that amount to sticking plasters, will help ensure our roads are safer for all.

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9. How can I support Cycling UK’s general election campaign?

Your support is critical to put cycling on the political agenda and help Cycling UK to develop relationships with our future MPs.

Take a few seconds to write to your local candidates standing in your constituency to encourage them to support policies that invest in active travel and give everyone healthy and sustainable transport choices.

Please share our action and chat with your family, friends, colleagues and maybe even your local candidates about our manifesto and the need for investment in cycling and walking to enable everyone to lead healthier, happier, and greener lives.


Write to your candidates


To give people better transport choices, improve access to the outdoors, and get more people cycling with all the benefits that brings, please contribute today or become a member and be part of our vision. Together we can make a cycle friendly future.

You can also share our information pack with your local candidates to support them to advocate for cycling, walking, and wheeling on the doorstep, in Parliament and beyond.

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10. What action can I take in my local area to put cycling on the agenda?

Candidates standing for election are most likely to respond to invitations for meetings, events or activities if they’re contacted by a local constituent with an interesting hook.

Try inviting your local candidates out for a bike ride around your neighbourhood. Candidates who don’t cycle might not understand some of the barriers and experiencing things first hand is a powerful demonstration. Think about what you want to demonstrate, focusing on the issues that matter most to you.

If there is nowhere to park your bike near the local shops, ride around in search of the nearest spot and discuss the benefits to local businesses when you can park up outside.

You could also try putting on a hustings, bringing together candidates to outline their position on vital issues, such investment in active travel, cycle infrastructure and road safety.

If you’re feeling bold and want to catch candidates’ attention – campaign stunts and mass rides such as Kidical Mass are a great way to demonstrate that cycling is popular and investing in infrastructure and road safety benefits everyone.

Check out our Cycle Advocacy Network resources for more ideas on how to engage your local candidates and make sure they understand the benefits of making cycling a safe and obvious choice for all.

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11. What happens after the election?

Post-election, Cycling UK will be meeting with as many newly elected MPs as possible to ensure they understand the wide-ranging benefits of making cycling a safe and obvious choice for all.

We will also be reminding those who pledged to support our manifesto asks of their commitments and supporting them to advocate for healthy and sustainable transport choices throughout the next Parliament.

We’ll be closely scrutinising all legislation regarding active travel to ensure it creates better, more accessible places and communities for cycling, walking and wheeling.

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Take action for cycling

Write to your local candidates today to encourage them to pledge their support for policies to:

  • Increase investment in active travel, ramping up to 10% of the transport budget within five years
  • Produce an integrated transport strategy designed to give people more transport choices
  • Improve the planning system by ensuring all new homes are required to have excellent cycling and walking networks

Write to your candidates


Read our manifesto