The Assembly Elections & the importance of #VoteBike

With an election just a few weeks away, it’s time to get a bit serious and think carefully about where we put our crosses on polling day.

We may have legislation in place now to continuously improve walking & cycling provision, but without political will and a steady stream of funding not a lot is going to happen. It could even be that an incoming government could remove the legislation we have and undo any progress we may have made.

So, in order to decide which way to vote, we need to look at the manifesto that each party has published. First up, the old guard.

Labour

As the incumbent party, if you have been unimpressed by them so far it would be hard for a glossy document to convince anyone that a new Labour government will make that many changes.

Frustratingly, on the active travel front there’s not a lot of detail here. One line to be precise.

Active travel plans – safe, healthy travel for all

However, the Active Travel Act, the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and the Environment Act arrived under their tenure and they’re unlikely to remove them from the statute book now. We hope.

They also made the effort to attend the Cardiff Cycle City Hustings, but wouldn’t commit to a continuous level of funding.

Plaid Cymru

The Plaid manifesto is a little more detailed in terms of active travel plans.

  • ensure that walking and cycling is integrated with bus and rail services
  • raise the level of funding per person on active travel within Wales
  • establish a dedicated capital investment fund for active travel schemes similar to Scotland
  • ensure that active travel considerations are incorporated into the planning system
  • ensure that re-opening of the Rhondda tunnel as an important tourist attraction and cycle path is supported.

Whilst it doesn’t go as far as to give a figure for how much investment there will be per person, at the Hustings Dafydd Tristan did explain that there would be a couple of investment pots – £30m and £21m that would be utilised by their “Infrastructure Commission”.

It’s also worth pointing out that Dafydd did make a good account of himself at the hustings and said the sorts of things people wanted to hear.

The Green Party

The Green Party, with cycling being one of the greenest modes of transport around, gave us high hopes. Their manifesto is also quite brief in terms of active travel content, but it does say some encouraging things.

Make walking and cycling safer: We will support the development of ‘Home Zones’ develop new safe cycle and walking routes to link communities and services and implement a 20mph speed limit in all residential areas including through rural villages.

At the hustings they wouldn’t be pressed on a figure, pointing out that wise investment is arguably more important than significant investment poorly spent. True enough.

Ken Barker from Cardiff Cycle Campaign was representing the Greens at the hustings and is representing the Greens in Pontypridd as well.

Liberal Democrats

It could be argued that the Lib Dems have struggled to recover following a term with the Tories at Westminster, upsetting a lot of the people who voted for them. However, this side of the border, particularly in terms of active travel they have so far made some encouraging noises. At the hustings they promised to commit £10 per head to cycling investment.


The manifesto does talk about combining rail and cycle travel as well as a few excellent bulletpoints further on, including that commitment to £10 per head:

  • Make a commitment to teaching every school child to safely cycle.
  • Create an active travel fund to encourage the development of new active travel infrastructure across Wales, and make progress towards a target of £10 per person per year cycling investment.
  • Encourage walking and cycling by providing support for route development and education programmes.

The Conservatives

Aside from attempting to privatise anything it can get away with, including CADW apparently, cycling gets short shrift in the Tory manifesto.

Ominously, it plans to re-prioritise the National Transport Plan, although it doesn’t say “how” it will do that.

Cycling gets two lines in the whole document.

  • Include consideration of cycle paths in plans for road infrastructure and large residential developments.
  • Introduce a public campaign to promote safer cycling and encourage cycling to work.

Considering the Active Travel Act already does this and more, it’s hard not to be concerned what their overall plans are. As they didn’t bother turning up to the hustings, take that as a sign that the future isn’t bright here.

UKIP

As a distilled, somewhat radical version of the Conservative Party, it is hardly surprising that cycling is on uncertain ground in the UKIP manifesto.

Amusingly they appear to believe that promoting cycling on the “old M4” was ever a thing. Making active travel part of the relief road project and allowing cycling on a motorway are two very different things. It is more likely that money would be found within the budget for development of an active travel route between Newport and Cardiff. That’s on the assumption that the project goes ahead at all –few parties appear to be in favour of it.

Whilst it isn’t said explicitly, we wouldn’t be surprised to see UKIP repeal the Active Travel and Future Generations Acts and to hell with walking, cycling, public health and the planet.

What is particularly troubling is this idea of mandating the use of cycle paths where they are available. Clearly they have never tried using the paths that we have.

Needless to say, we’re not linking to that manifesto.

Some thoughts

We must admit it is difficult to write an article like this without some political bias creeping in. Cycling, Boris aside, tends to be favoured by left-leaning parties, whereas right-wing parties tend to favour short-term financial gain & low tax at the expense of public services, infrastructure investment and the environment. This, unsurprisingly is reflected in the manifestos we have read.

The Tory and UKIP manifestos appear to be bordering on hostile towards active travel. Their unwillingness to participate in the hustings also seems to confirm that.

On the other hand, the left leaning parties of Plaid and the Greens, plus the centre-left Liberal Democrats have made a good account of themselves on paper and at the hustings.

Labour has yet to surprise us. That is either going to be a disappointment to you, or comfortingly familiar. We’re encouraged by their new leader in Westminster, but wished Welsh Labour would grow some balls, particularly when it comes to pushing along the legislation it managed to come up with whilst in office.

Two Crosses

On our ballot papers there will be two votes. One vote is for the constituency list, where Labour has been particularly strong in Wales since devolution. There’s also a second box for the regional list.

The worry here is that UKIP has a real opportunity to make inroads on this list. We don’t want to sway you either way, but a spot of defensive voting with a vote for the cycle-friendly party of your choice would be appreciated…

If you missed the hustings, there is a Storify full of tweets from the event. On that note, we’ll draw a line here and get back to writing posts that are fun or useful…


Ahh…that’s better.

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