Roger GeffenThursday, 27 September 2018
Amidst all the Brexit-related headlines, one recent engagement in Theresa May’s diary seems to have had very little media attention: her attendance at the Government-sponsored Zero Carbon Vehicles Summit in Birmingham, on 18 September.
The Prime Minister used the occasion to announce £106 million for research and development into electric vehicles. In her speech, she presented this as evidence that the UK is developing global leadership through “our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing the industries and technologies of the future.”
Interestingly, her speech also mentioned electric cargo bikes (though only once!).
I’m pretty sure this is only the second time she has mentioned cycling in her role as Prime Minister. (The first was an answer at Prime Minister’s Questions, about the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs, killed in collision with a fixed-wheel bike being ridden illegally without a front-brake by Charlie Alliston. Her response triggered the Government’s review of cycling offences, the focus of our current Road Justice campaign – though, more positively, it now also forms part of the Government’s wider Cycling and Walking Safety Review).
On the day before the PM’s speech, Local Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP had announced that the Government would invest a cool £2 million in supporting the uptake of electric cargo bikes. This is hardly mega-bucks, but it is a heartening signal of the direction Jesse Norman is keen to take.
However, The Times reported that he had asked Chancellor Philip Hammond for subsidies for e-bike purchases, potentially worth up to £800 on a £2,000 machine. We can only hope he persists in seeking Treasury support for e-bikes, and that he is more successful next time!
Cycling UK has long questioned why the Government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles provides such generous subsidies for electric cars, vans and charging-points, yet nothing for e-bikes.
Roger Geffen, Cycling UK Policy Director
Cycling UK has long questioned why the Government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) provides such generous subsidies for electric cars, vans and charging-points, yet nothing for e-bikes.
We have pointed out that, whilst electric cars and vans can tackle air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, they do nothing to reduce the costs to society of congestion, road casualties or physical inactivity.
Evidence from a 2009 Cabinet Office report on the costs of transport in English urban areas shows that the economic cost of these three things is of a similar magnitude to that of air pollution. By investing in e-cars and vans but not e-bikes, we are spending a lot more money, whilst tackling only a fraction of the problem.