Illustration by Matt Ward

Words by Suzie McCracken

In case you didn’t know, there’s a thing called an election coming up. That’s where people like you and me get to watch Eton-educated lizardmen cock up speeches and try to look ‘down with the kids’.

But hold on a minute! We can’t deny that democracy is cool. And even though the lizardmen are annoying, we recommend that you all register to vote and pick the most agreeable of the lot.

A great place to start is by considering the various parties’ cycling policies – because the qualities of caring about public health and the environment are probably indicative of an organisation’s general vibe, and it might make a difference to your future. Because if you were born after 1985, you won’t ever be able to afford a car anyway.

We asked British Cycling mouthpiece and general good guy, Chris Boardman, who he thinks young people in the UK should vote for if they care about cycling.

He sensibly told us: “I tend not to believe in parties, I believe in people. And there's some people in these parties that know their stuff. Having a person high up the chain who wants it to happen, can make it happen." 

"People should vote for those who they genuinely believe are going to do something, not for just cyclists, but for transport in this country. To make it a more liveable place to be."

So here they are: the parties and their promises.

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Power player: Richard Burden MP, the Shadow Minister for Transport.

What have they promised?

Not much. Labour are still doing the maths by the sound of it, but they have committed to a “long term strategy to increase cycling and walking rates, with clarity over funding." That clarity just isn’t clear, yet.

Specifically they’ve mentioned HGV safety, cycle-proofing transport infrastructure (safer roundabouts and the like), children’s education (mainly the continued funding of Bikeability), and restoring targets to reduce deaths on the roads (that the Conservatives abandoned).

Do we believe them?

Yes, we believe they’ll hit their targets if they get into power –but currently they aren’t being very ambitious. They won’t commit to the £10 per head of funding figure that the Conservatives and Lib Dems have.

However they have promised that if they get into power, they’ll work on a long-term plan that will ensure cycling investment is consistent. In Richard Burden’s words: Labour want “predictable and continuous funding so that [local bodies] can plan and invest in the street and road schemes."

What about changes other than money?

When it comes to changing the culture of cycling in the UK, Labour have promised toreview how the justice system treats vulnerable road users." It’s by no means a game-changing promise, but it’s something.

Do they get it?

Ish. Fabian Hamilton MP built Richard Burden MP his bike. I like to think they ride around together, maybe on a tandem, discussing how much they think Ed Miliband is the tits.

Burden also seems pretty sincere when making his case at parliamentary debates. But we’ll have to wait for their full manifesto to see whether they’ve got the balls to back up their ideas with figures.

Manifesto update: There's been NO funding commitment for cycling in the Labour manifesto, and just a brief mention of them hoping to "promote cycling" in a paragraph about wider infrastructure investment. Not great.

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Power player: Robert Goodwill MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport.

What have they promised?

They want a continuation of their investment in infrastructure that’s been a “vital part" of their “long term economic plan".

In 2010 the government was spending £2 per person in the country on supporting cycling, and now that number is at £6 per head. The big promise for the election is that if they win, they’ll up this spending to £10 per head.

The Conservatives say they’ve tripled bike parking spaces at railway stations, made junctions safer and created more segregated cycle paths during their time in government.

They also claim to love the idea of a Dutch-style cycle nation, and have made a huge pot of money available to 8 cities as part of their boringly-named Cycling Ambition Cities Programme.

Do we believe them?

Well, you can’t deny that the funding has gone up. Or can you? Labour reckons the numbers are misleading, and that in real terms “half of councils have had to cut spending on walking and cycling since 2010."

Whether this government actually made improvements or not, we do believe that the Conservatives would up their spending and see through programmes that this government has started if they won the election.

Whether they’ll manage the £10 per head target though, and whether they’ll give cycling precedence over other methods of transport, we’re not so sure. The government’s Cycling Delivery Plan also comes nowhere near to the suggestions for spending made by the Get Britain Cycling Report (which the Lib Dems are adopting as policy).

What about changes other than money?

Despite their supposed desire for Britain to become a “cycling nation", the Tories are keeping schtum… there’s no mention of updating the Highway Code or taking a stance on strict liability (that’s where drivers can’t use the “I didn’t see them" defence).

They’re also opposed to the idea of setting a default 20mph speed limit in the UK, because local councils are endowed with the power to implement low-speed areas where they want. And because they’re Conservatives, they like the idea of smaller, less-centralised government. That’s fine if your policies are driven by ideology instead of evidence – but all non-idiots (oh, and this academic study) say that 20mph zones ARE effective as a measure for reducing injuries and deaths, and should be considered as default rather than a quaint opportunities for illustrations of turtles on Islington high streets.

Do they get it?

Again, sort of. This intrepid Mpora reporter went to an event where Robert Goodwill MP made a nice-sounding speech, but during the following debate he only got impassioned when mentioning potholes. They’re a genuine problem for cyclists, sure, but not the only problem.

Manifesto update: One brief mention of cycling – "We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200 million to make cycling safer, so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year." That may sound like a lot, but it's not. Where did that £10 per head figure disappear to, Mr Cameron?

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Power player: Dr Julian Huppert MP, vice chair of the Federal Policy Committee (the Lib Dems breeding ground for manifesto fodder), and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. He’s MP for Cambridge, the poster-city of cycling-investment.

What have they promised?

Some pretty exceptional things: not only do they pledge to hit the £10 per head of funding figure, they hope to go even further by increasing that to £20 per head. That’s a huge amount of money for cycling – so much so that The Telegraph have listed it as one of the Lib Dems seven maddest policies. Reason alone to vote for them then, surely?

Do we believe them?

Yep. The Lib Dems have been all over cycling, and like to count it as a big ideological issue rather than a niche aspect of transport policy. They’re keen on pressing the point that they aren’t quite sure why the other parties are moaning so much: they reckon reallocating a fraction of the Department for Transport’s budget will more than cover their plans.

But it’s easy to make grandiose claims about injecting billions of pounds into maintaining cycling infrastructure when you know you haven’t got a hope in two hells of being back in power in May.

What about changes other than money?

No promises, but they are loud and proud about their desire to see 20mph be the default speed limit in many areas, they think every child should get Bikeability training, and they would immediately outline a cycling investment strategy after the election if they got into power.

Do they get it?

Yep. Well, Julian Huppert certainly does: he has the sense to know it’ll save the NHS money when it comes to mental health bills as well as physical, and he just seems pretty stoked on bicycles. If Huppert were to actually be given some power in the (totally unlikely) event of a Lib Dem government, he’d do some good shit. Or he’d do the opposite. #UniFees.

Manifesto update: As expected, the Lib Dem manifesto says the party would implement the suggestions of the Get Britain Cycling report. Hurrah!

Power player: Rupert Read, transport spokesperson and prospective MP, and Caroline Russell, local transport spokesperson and walking and cycling campaigner.

What have they promised?

Fucking loads. They want to rethink how the UK’s infrastructure is designed, not just by making allowances for cyclists (like all the other parties have promised), but making cyclists primary road users. They’re into “re-allocating road-space, reducing road danger and cleaning up our air to make our towns, cities and villages into more liveable, accessible and socially inclusive places".

Do we believe them?

Yes, we believe that the Green’s really want to completely change how travel works in the UK and we trust if they got a full majority they would attempt to implement it as best they can.

Their plan for where to get the money is to end the current “wasteful and destructive national major roads programme". We’re not sure how feasible that is, but it sounds nice.

Unfortunately, it’s much more likely that if we see much Green in the next government, it’ll be part of a coalition that will greatly dilute their ambitions. But at least they’ve got some bloody ambitions, right?

What about changes other than money?

Some really great ideas. Because the Greens aren’t obsessed with pleasing everyone, they have some actually different policies, like the introduction of proportional liability (also known as ‘strict liability’). That’s the concept which acknowledges that “the duty of care for one's actions when using the road should be proportional to the degree of danger that you impose on other road users", and that “the burden of proof is reversed with motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists, so pedestrian and cyclist casualties are presumed to qualify for civil compensation".

They also promise that they’d amend the Highway Code so that cyclists are given priority at junctions over motorised traffic.

Do they get it?

YES! Not only would they do the above, but they’d also educate other road users about the changes they made so that everyone would know the deal. They also understand that making the UK more like Holland is about investing in both cycling and public transport, not just one or the other. They are almost certainly the closest chance we have to a two-wheeled utopia. Shame they’ll never get enough votes. Unless...

Manifesto update: A mention of cycling in their manifesto introduction, along with a travel section devoted to celebrating the joys of two wheels, not just because it's good for the earth but because it's good for life. Woop woop!

 

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Power player: UKIP’s transport spokesperson Jill Seymour, MEP.

What have they promised?

They don’t have their full transport manifesto available yet, but a short statement outlining the party’s position has been released. They namecheck the idea of using closed railway lines to create a network of cycle lanes, and encouraging participation in the cycling proficiency test.

Do we believe them?

Not really, no. On their website they currently have a bit of a mini-manifesto, and the transport section doesn’t mention walking or cycling at all: it’s all HS2 and pensioner’s bus passes. They also have a bloody awful track record: in 2010 (the last time they had a lengthy manifesto), they thought it’d be a great idea to give everyone a 'Cycledisc', to minimise “dangerous cyclist behaviour". This is no longer policy, but it’s not great.

What about changes other than money?

Nah. I reckon they just want cyclists to be aware of the rules of the road so they don’t jump red lights and do things that might endanger those oh so vulnerable motorists.

Do they get it?

I don’t think so. The statement they provided is nice, but it completely ignores the concept of upping funding and the railways idea feels a bit like a platitude. It’s skirting around the real issue of changing cycling culture. UKIP are taking the rather libertarian stance, which feels like the equivalent of saying of “they can cycle as long as it doesn’t affect me".

Manifesto update: Not ONE mention of cycling in the 2015 UKIP manifesto. EUGH.