Friday, 2 March 2012

Politics and Cycling

I was, am still am a huge fan of any organisation, party or sporting body that helps to improve the focus and the debate about cycling alive in the UK. We must applaud the Times newspaper for its efforts to bring cycle safety to the top table of political debates in the UK.

Many bloggers, commentators and so called supporters of the common cyclist have been taking the piss about the way in which the debate took place. Granted many of the MP's have a distorted view on what the average commuter goes through, what challenges we face and the state of the transport system. They are often like Judges? so far removed from the general rigours of life that few will actual appreciate what it is like to ride a bike more than a few yards let alone appreciate what it is like being squeezed into the curb, abused by some chavs or nearly cleaned out by an idiot on a mobile phone.

However, what remains the fact is that we now have them discussing the issue The more the issue is discussed, as with the understanding of the economy and double dip recessions they will learn more and appreciate more. Do we need to educate them? Of course we do!

We need to start somewhere and my belief is that we start by getting them to discuss safety. Ultimately that has to be the first point of call. What we need to ensure though is like many other fields they take advice from the experts. Other policies including the road transport is brought about by public consultation and advice.

What also scares politicians is the volumes of votes thy can win or lose based on a particular issue. Why do you think so many MP's are wary to cut the benefits scam? At present almost 5 million people are claiming some form of benefit. That’s about 25% of the voting population. They are not all unemployed but cuts would affect their child benefit etc. A risky business and why David Cameron needs applauding (a different subject though for a different blog!)

The point remains though and here lies the challenge, how do we make cycling so important that Politicians are scared not to take the cyclist serious? In some respects it will come naturally. As petrol prices increase so do the volume of people on their bikes. Numbers do not however make politicians scared. It’s the impact we can have on their careers.

We all need to work hard now to keep cycling in the public domain. How do we do that?

1) We continue to lobby Government through the likes of Times campaign, joining British cycling and the CTC to increase their voice

2) Continue to commute by bike and increase our numbers on the roads.

3) Campaign our local government offices and central government for improved cycle provision. With a sympathetic ear like Boris Johnson in London local changes will start to happen. Don't forget as well many towns and cities are looking to elect Mayors. Cycle support is an easy and very public way of making an impact. I you live in a city that is going through these elections vote for the one that has cycling in his/her manifesto - bugger a party line, who cares!

4) Support your local cycling club and club rides. The bigger the sport the bigger the voice. Look at football. They even have meetings in government to discuss racist comments made on the pitch? If you have the contacts, get your local councillor or MP to take part in a cycle ride. How many sports have that sort of voice! It’s the "national sport" so it’s important.

5) Get blogging or at least comment on blogs. The government takes note of the World Wide Web. Civil servants have jobs and companies are employed to simply manage the scope of public opinion.

6) Record and post your videos and photos of the challenges that face cyclist, make him/her believe the issue is important

Finally, lobby your own MP. Let them know how you feel

As with everything, you don't have an opinion whist sat on your arse at home. You might want to moan and groan about bits and bobs to your friends. You’re wasting my oxygen and your time! Make an impact in the political process and to the cycling community as a whole.

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