Friday 13 January 2017 15.41 GMT
Ride with me, Chris Grayling, and you’ll see that cycle lanes aren’t a problem, they help to tackle pollution, obesity and overcrowded public transport
Yesterday, Chris Grayling MP, the person responsible for transport in this country, showed an astonishing lack of knowledge regarding cycling on the road. He implied in parliament that cyclists don’t count as road users. While this was incredible to hear, it was – sadly – far from surprising, and is symptomatic of a lack of insight and understanding on this issue from our elected representatives.
If Grayling has any understanding of the concerns of the 7 million people who regularly cycle on Britain’s roads, then he would know that the vast majority of cycle lanes are inconvenient, poorly maintained and often dangerous. It is why most cyclists choose to cycle in the road. It is also the reason why just 2% of journeys are cycled,despite British Cycling having evidence that two-thirds of people would cycle if it were made safer.
As Grayling must be aware, people are – and always have been –free to use the roads in many ways: driving, cycling, walking, horse riding, rollerblading – and we all have a duty to use our roads safely, no matter how we travel. This is enshrined in law and backed up by the highway code, which also tells cyclists that they don’t have to use cycle lanes.
I would like to take Grayling on a typical London commute from zone 2 to his office in Westminster
I – and I’m sure the same goes for the 7 million other people who get around by bike – would love there to be a convenient segregated cycle lane on every main road so that my family and I didn’t have to share the road with motor traffic. However, without intelligent thinking and smart investment this won’t happen, and Grayling’s own government’s target to double the number of journeys being cycled will never materialise.
It won’t be easy to achieve, and our political leaders undoubtedly need to be brave, decisive and committed in order to meet even their own modest targets. But for a country in danger of being crippled by societal issues such as congestion, pollution and an obesity epidemic, sustainable transport has never been more crucial.
How much, for example, are failed pollution targets likely to cost us? How far could we go if we cleaned up our act on sustainable transport, met these targets and freed up this money to be spent elsewhere? If an affordable, alternative answer to all of these problems were presented, I would gladly advise Grayling and his colleagues to take that option. However, as we stand at the moment, cycling presents the only viable, cost-effective and proven solution, yet our government still seems unwilling to commit to it.
We need major investment in cycling networks in communities across the country, along with better integration with public transport and supportive policies to improve safety onthe road. At present, investment in cycling infrastructure is set to fall. For example the cycle cities ambition programme, which has provided funding for cycling in eight cities, is due to finish in 2018 with no new funding in place. When it ends the Department for Transport’s spending on cycling will be less than £1 per head of the population compared with the £15bn being invested in roads and £50bn in HS2. It is clear this is about priorities, not money.