Hannah’s had enough with Government transport planners. Again…
I’m going to scream. Actually, I did, though it was more of a desperate guttural groan of suppressed rage and frustration. Why? Because the Transport Committee of the UK Government has launched an inquiry into Active Transport. This might not seem like something worthy of hair-tearing, fist-balling anger, but it is.
For those unfamiliar with the machinations of government, Committee Inquiries can help set policy directions for future legislation. Following an Inquiry, a Committee will often make a series of recommendations which may then be taken forward and turned into legislation. Active Travel then, is surely something it would be great to see some legislation about? Some rules ensuring that bikes and pedestrians were given greater priority in new construction projects, perhaps? Maybe even relaxed planning rules to facilitate the easier building of segregated cycle lanes? There are all sorts of things that could be done that would transform our landscape from the current car-centric set up to one where cycling and walking are nice, normal and attractive modes of transport that appeal to everyone.
In launching the Inquiry, Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:
“Walking and cycling are both extremely important modes of sustainable transport. The health benefits, as well as their contribution to cutting air pollution and congestion on the roads, are clear.
However, take-up of active travel is disappointingly low in this country, with significant variations from region to region. Overall, we compare very unfavourably with many of our European neighbours. So why are we so slow to get active?
Is local and central Government policy and funding appropriate? Is more needed than just building the infrastructure, such as cycle lanes? How can we promote behavioural change so that walking or cycling become the default for first and last mile journeys? Those are the key questions at the heart of our inquiry, which I hope it will bring renewed attention to this issue.”
The thing is, these key questions have been answered, time and time again. Renewed attention is welcome, but what we really need is action. Chris Boardman took to Twitter in response:
“My god, we have a sea of evidence about what is needed, we are drowning in the stuff.
We know exactly what to do:
– Sustained meaningful funding
– Strong cross-party leadership
– A real commitment to change
How about we get party transport leads in a room and AGREE TO DO IT?”
Chris Boardman – possibly the most reasoned, self controlled and well informed cycle champion on the planet – taking to block capitals, with an added ‘my god’ exclamation. I feel a bit better about my own screams now.
We need these next steps to happen. We need the consultations to stop, and the construction of proper cycle infrastructure to begin. Build it and people will use it. We need policy to be led by what is good for people, not cars (or the motor industry). We need this to happen to stop our streets being congested unpleasant landscapes. We need it to improve our air quality, keep us physically active, redress our sedentary lifestyles and reduce our CO2 emissions. We need it to save ourselves, the NHS, the planet.
The Committee does not really need our views on what can be learnt from the Netherlands, or Denmark, or Bogota, or any of the other pioneering locations where braver politicians have gone for it and taken the leap into actual action. The evidence is there – as Boardman says, we’re drowning in the stuff, but if you’d like an excellent review of it all, I highly recommend Bike Nation by Peter Walker. What the Committee needs is a groundswell of public opinion, for politicians to feel that being pro-cycling is a vote winner, to have the confidence to take some actual decisions. And it needs us to accept the loss of the odd parking space, respect the occasional urban 20mph zone, and embrace it all as a fair trade for a cleaner, healthier way of living.
It’s not enough to share links and tweets on social media – we’re in a bubble preaching to the already converted. Get your pen out, and make sure your political representatives know that you want the talking to stop, and the action to start. Better yet, get your bike out too, and ride it to the shops, to work, to school…