What do each of the parties offer for cycling?

After the withdrawal of the transport hustings from all the candidates, Transition Bath, Transition Larkhall and Cycle Bath requested a one to one interview with all candidates. They obliged. During the interviews we gave each candidate the chance to air their views on some of the main issues in Bath and what their plans were to tackle them.

Each candidate was given an hour to interview and answer detailed questions. The full details of which can be found here.

A quick summary of local priorities:

Parliamentary-Election-2017-Candidates-Transport-Priorities-720x380

Focusing in on cycling in order of interview:

Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrats)

On Cycling and active transport

  • A keen cyclist with a history of prompting increased cycling in other areas she has lived in.
  • Wants to see a greater emphasis on encouraging people on to bikes and walking.
  • Demonstrated openness to working with groups like Transition and Cycle Bath, to implement and lobby for stronger initiatives and incentives.
  • Wants to create networks of cycling away from main traffic.

Ben Howlett (Conservative Party)

On Cycling and active transport

  • Will implement more cycle routes and safe walking zones
  • Working to implement cycle racks on the front of buses to help encourage bike use
  • Improvements to the Bristol/Bath cycle path, with more accessibility to more people and new developments in Bath.
  • Accessing government’s funds to improve the region.

Joe Rayment (Labour Party)

On Cycling and active transport

  • Like Ben, would like to see bike racks on the front of buses.
  • Segregated cycle lanes to make cycling safer to increase accessibility for all.
  • Prioritise walking, cycling and buses above the use of car.

Eleanor Field (Green Party)

On Cycling and active transport

  • Safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists, including segregated cycle lanes.
  • Walking buses for children on their way to school.
  • Less cars will encourage more active travel, so it has to be key to reduce car use.
  • Wants to encourage more e-bikes in Bath.

Interviewer’s Conclusions

There were some big differences between candidates and some similarities. All accept there is a problem with air quality and congestion in Bath, and all want to encourage more walking and cycling, whilst trying to make public transport more affordable. All candidates apart from Ben seem to agree that more roads and car centric schemes are not the answer. Joe and Eleanor both see an opportunity to take rail and buses back into public ownership, at least at a local level, and Joe strongly made this the centrepiece of his plan. Wera looks strongly to working within communities to instigate change through movement away from the car, and Ben wants to put the emphasis on reducing traffic in Bath by diverting it where possible on alternate routes. Please take the time to listen to the interviews yourselves and hopefully this will help you make the choice you feel will best serve the city, and our future.

My Conclusions

I felt that much of what an MP can and cannot do is constrained by a willing council. It’s all very good Ben Howlett pushing for more cycle routes and walking zones but that actually means very little. All roads are cycle routes and walking zones. Just some are safer than others. The other candidates all wanted to segregate cycling away from motorised traffic which I feel is the only viable approach.

All candidates wanted to ‘encourage’ people to cycle. This is a politically weak construct that allows you to do nothing. With 5.5% of commuters in Bath cycling to work (Census 2011), but only 1% of school children cycling to school, it is the perceived safety of our roads that is ‘discouraging’ people from everyday cycling. The only way you get more people cycling is to segregate, to make it safe.

Putting the work an MP does at parliamentary level within the context of what can be achieved locally I think is a hard thing to do.  An MP can do a couple of things at national level that will have a profound impact at a local level:

  • Legislate for 10% of DfT budget to be spent on cycle infrastructure.
  • Legislate for a set of national enforceable cycle infrastructure standards that take the speed profile and minimum requirements as set out in Highways England IAN 195
    minimum
  • Legislate to require councils to meet minimum infrastructure standards as part of resurfacing/maintenance programmes and provide access to DfT budget to implement those changes.
  • Petition to switch from maximising traffic flow to maximising road capacity. Replacing 2 rows of parked cars on a major route with cycle lanes can increase road capacity by 63%.
  • Legislate to recognise that road design has a key role in delivering public health improvements around Air Pollution (average 7 months loss of life) and Obesity (average 36 months loss of life) and refocus the DfT and Local Authority Highways departments around prioritising active travel on our roads or provision of good alternatives.

Whoever wins on Thursday, I hope Cycle Bath can sit down with them and work at a national level to make a real difference locally.

Please go and look at the detailed analysis available on Transition Bath’s website

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