Saturday, 2 January 2010

The year ahead

Let's make 2010 the year when mass cycling really made a comeback in Britain.

Enthusiastically suggests a commenter on another cycling blog. Yeah, right – and how exactly? It’s not something that’s going to happen through persuasion, or quoting statistics, or because cycling bloggers say what fun cycling is. Because although cycling is pleasurable and healthy and the perfect way of getting around cities, it’s also all too often stressful, dangerous, inconvenient and unpleasant. And most people can see that for themselves, which is why they don’t want to try cycling, or they do and give it up.

The reason why cycling is so off-putting is because this country’s transport infrastructure continues to put the car first and cyclists and pedestrians last. Most motorists don’t cycle, and having to share roads with people who drive a ton of metal very close to you is not a happy experience. The cycling infrastructure is either mediocre or non-existent. If you want mass cycling in Britain you need to supply infrastructure on the Dutch model. Nothing else is going to work. But it’s not a message which Britain’s two main cycling organisations believe in, nor do the three main political parties.

And the Tories, who are probably going to win by a landslide in May, are much more pro-car than either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. That’s why Koy Thomson’s ecstatic vision of a cycling Prime Minister strikes me as crackers.

The crap is going to get crappier. Nationally, walking will continue to decline, as will cycling. In those oases where cycling is claimed to be on the rise, it will level off or possibly even slump. Mass cycling in Britain is achievable, but nothing significant is being done to achieve it. Therefore it won’t happen.

Pessimism is the new realism.

And now here is an exclusive preview of where British transport policy is going.