Why Vote Bike?
Why Vote Bike?
Think back to 2010 when the last General Election took place and the topics on which it was fought. It is probably a bit of a blur, but the prime focus was unsurprisingly the economy, with forays off into the future of the NHS and immigration. Environment and transport barely had a sniff – and cycling was not even a footnote.
Fast forward five years, and it looks as though it will be the same topics, except that the NHS and immigration will assume more of a prominent role. This time, however, cycling is on the stage - not as a Hamlet, but more as an “attendant lord” - and in this role its importance is growing.
A prime example was the Big Cycling Debate on 2 March this year. The debate was widely and rightly reported, and the differing topics widely discussed. What was interesting about these reports was that the occasion was not treated as anything out of the ordinary, when in fact, it was for UK politics.
The concept of pulling together top representatives from three of the leading parties to discuss cycling would have been deemed laughable and beyond ambitious five years ago. Cycling, at best, would have merited a question or two in a transport debate, but never a full hour of meaningful consideration.
It therefore demonstrates how far cycling has grown in political importance on both a national and local scale over the last five years. You only need to think how London Cycling Campaign’s excellent Space for Cycling initiative became a real election issue, and the ongoing success of the campaign when it was taken national by CTC.
Such change does not happen overnight and, while headlines and soundbites are essential to keeping cycling in the spotlight and maintaining political pressure, it is the less glamorous long-term work of policy development and its implementation which are achieving results.
A prime example of this is the recent Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, now bound in law by the Infrastructure Act. Conceived by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and aided in its delivery by Sustrans, CTC and Living Streets, cycling investment is now on a par with roads and rail. This achievement is the result of decades of campaigning for adequate funding for cycling, and seizing the opportunity presented by a complicated Bill which grabbed headlines for fracking rather than sustainable transport options.
The Big Cycling Debate was designed to build on the momentum of the Act, and put pressure on the parties particularly on the core issue of funding for cycling, but also on road safety, infrastructure, training and cohesive working in government. For this reason, the UK Cycling Alliance (UKCA), pulled together a panel from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democratic parties.
This parliament, however, is now at an end, and no one is sure who will next be living at No 10 Downing St, or representing many of the constituencies. It’s an exciting time for UK politics, but for campaigning it is a drag.
Many political allies discovered over the last five years may have moved on come May, and the hard graft will have to begin again and swiftly if we are to maintain the momentum built up over the past year. More importantly, we run a risk of losing cycling’s champions for this parliament.
The 'Bicycling Baronet' Sir George Young MP has already confirmed he will step down. Co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), Dr Julian Huppert MP and Ian Austin MP, who have worked tirelessly on the behalf of cycling have fierce fights on their hands, and they are by no means alone in this.
Cycling needs its champions in Westminster. Therefore, to help us work out who they'll be in the next parliament, CTC has launched Vote Bike. Through this simple-to-online tool we can identify which future MPs are likely to support cycling - useful information not just for campaigners, but also for the next APPCG.
It’s not about trying to influence manifestos at this late stage. Candidates need to know there is a huge cycling vote out there and we need to identify who our parliamentary allies are going into the next Parliament.”
CTC Chief Executive
It is also an important means for constituents to quiz their candidates and get their personal opinion on cycling. Vote Bike might not make cycling centre stage, but with our supporters’ help it will be a vocal character in the background. At this stage of the political performance, it is not about changing lines in manifestos but the minds of the actors and letting them know how much cycling means to the country.
It is on this point that UKCA and organisations like CTC need to focus their ongoing attention. Vote Bike will help us identify the next act’s players, and then the really difficult part will come: fixing a figure to the long-term investment promised by all the parties. This has to be the primary goal for cycling after the election, as it is through secure long-term funding that the necessary infrastructure and right incentives for cycling can be put in place.
Ultimately, as the Chair of the Big Cycling Debate John Humphrys summed up, it is clear that all the parties appreciate cycling’s importance; but that now “we should all just do more of it”.
Make sure you tell your candidates to Vote Bike: www.votebike.org.uk