A member’s thoughts on cycle funding
GMCC member Nina McArthur shares her thoughts on tomorrow’s expected announcement about funding for cycling…
So rumour has it that David Cameron is set to make a big announcement tomorrow on a brand new package of funding for cycling in the chosen areas of England. Well, it is fairly certain that the announcement will be made but the rumours are more-so regarding what it will entail.
Word has it that extra funding of around £80 million will be proposed. Instinctively the response should be ‘That’s fantastic!’ from cycling fans across the country, however I would like to hold fire on such words for now. As I have previously blogged, to encourage cycling in the community does not necessarily require vast sums of money. The best thing about riding two wheels is that once you get hold of a bike, the world is your oyster to explore. You can cycle across fields with friends, commute to work or just pootle to the shops, café or park. It doesn’t cost you a bean, if anything cycling to work rather than driving or using public transport does both your wallet and the environment a bit of good. Although my love of a coffee shop stop midway kind of counteracts that at times!
Yet obviously, if we have more safer, wider and better protected cycle lanes on our road network then more people will be happier using them, especially parents of young families. Ensuring children get the chance to partake in cycling proficiency at school will mean they are introduced to cycling techniques at an early age and that parents will have peace of mind regarding their child’s safety. This would improve the nation’s health and could also lead to increased participation in sports and competitions – a true legacy for the 2012 Olympics. We also need campaigns to promote cycling awareness, to encourage motorists to have cyclists in the forefront of their minds, understanding our needs and watching out for cyclists at all times. Political and financial support is therefore key in promoting the awareness of cycling – be it to the young, old, able, disabled, sport addict or everyday citizen.
The good news so far is that it is expected the Government will support a new National Schools Award Scheme to encourage cycling and walking to school. This will hopefully mean children will experience the benefits early on by enjoying this healthy activity with family and friends, seeing just how easy it is to be healthy, happy, fit and have fun. Who knows, it might even cause some youngsters to be inspired to be the next Chris Hoy!
But my real concern is whether the funding will be directed at creating more media motivated election winning ploys such as bike lanes that are too narrow and have signposts saying ‘Cars are free to use when clear of cyclists’. If someone parks a car in a bike lane then people can’t cycle in it can they?!
Rather than more pointless skinny cycling lanes that police often don’t bat an eyelid at drivers obstructing or driving along, be it close into commuters or with horns blaring, we need strong support for creating beautiful canal towpaths between towns, wider and cleaner cycle lanes and more enforcement powers so the police can do more to ensure drivers respect people on two wheels. Equally, we need to show children at an early age the importance of respect for the rules of the road alongside how easy it is to ride a bike and incorporate it into everyday life.
As long as the £80 million goes towards creating a better environment for cycling, making a safer cycling network on our roads, improving the green space we have to make cycling more accessible for all, and supporting organisations and councils who want to use roads for traffic-free events, I think tomorrow’s announcement will be a positive step.
So what am I saying? Mr Cameron, please just make sure that money goes to good quality cycling infrastructure and improved cyclist awareness. We want to be supported so we can ride safely, smiling while we pedal :)