While motorists are kept sweet with new road schemes, and £5k e-car grants, Government leaves cyclists in the gutter.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor will unveil the full details of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Department of Transport is expected to be one of the stingiest departments, hacking away 40 percent of its annual spend.
However, this budget cut isn’t expected to be used for a moratorium on road building. In fact, it’s widely expected that many costly road schemes will be given the green light in a US-style push to spend more on infrastructure in the hope this will stimulate the economy.
For ‘increased infrastructure’ read ‘increased car-dependancy’.
While many billions will be lavished on road “improvements” (double-speak for speed-increasing road widening schemes), a few millions will be put into a Local Sustainable Transport Fund: bikes will have to tough it out with buses to get funding.
Motorists, on the other hand, can now speed more thanks to the “end of the war on the motorist”; and can look forward to juicy grants to put yet more space-hungry motorised vehicles on the already congested roads.
When the recession started, motorists were encouraged to upgrade their cars with the provision of cash handouts in the shape of scrappage scheme grants. In the future, a family wanting to add an ‘eco’ car to their multi-car fleet can get a whopping £5000 grant to buy an electric car.
While bicycles are the epitome of low-carbon transport, cyclists have not been encouraged with bike scrappage schemes and there are no Government bike-buying grants.
Instead, the UK Government scrapped Cycling England, and replaced it with…
Per year, Cycling England cost £200,000 to run and was responsible for sending £60m of DfT funds to local authorities over two years.
As the M6 road widening project is weighing in at £1000 an inch, the running of Cycling England can be estimated to have cost about five metres of motorway per year. Repeat: five metres.
But it’s politically easy to take cash away from cycling: cyclists don’t tend to blockade motorways.
And despite saying that cycling was so important it was mentioned in the Coalition Agreement, the transport minister wheeled out for cycling events is now chumming up with “Britain’s No 1 Motoring Writer”, Quentin Willson.
In yesterday’s Sunday Mirror, Willson said:
“I met Norman Baker, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, and I have to say he was by far the most motorist-friendly Transport Minister I’ve come across.
“He told me we’re not going to see any more congestion charging, that the trains aren’t a viable option for most people, that he was unimpressed by the effects of speed cameras and that governments are daft to try to force people out of cars.”
Now, some politicians are known for saying whatever the person in front of them wants to hear so Willson would be unwise to think Baker is a true petrolhead, but for Baker to even breathe such sentiments, and to a journalist with a motoring column, is a kick in the teeth for cyclists. With friends like these, who needs enemies?