If you were the bike tsar how would you make the UK committed to cycling? | Peter Walker

It sounds, on the face of it, as good as any cyclist could hope for:

We will develop a National Cycle Plan to promote cycling as a mainstream form of personal transport.

This comes from the transport section of Building Britain's Future, the grandiosely named policy document released yesterday by Gordon Brown's government as a draft for the next Queen's speech.

These are big words. Unlike – to take the obvious examples – the Netherlands and Denmark, UK governments have never really planned for cycling. Until recently it's been something that was more or less tolerated if it happened, but viewed as a pursuit that all but a handful of enthusiasts grow out of soon enough.

To promote it as a "mainstream" transport choice – that's a very long way from the current situation in Britain where only around 2% of all journeys are taken by bicycle. To give some context, the equivalent figure in the Netherlands in 27%.

The hard bit is how to do it. Well, of course, this is where things get a bit hazy. Other than the chance for an English urban area to win some extra funding by becoming a so-called Sustainable Transport City, the policy document doesn't really contain anything in the way of specifics.

A sceptic would say that this matters little, given that Building Britain's Future is likely to be one of the final policy gasps from a government on its way out and thrashing around for any sort of policy initiatives which might, even briefly, arrest the decline.

But there's also an argument that even hearing a British government talk about a national plan to make cycling an everyday transport choice – however vague the methods – is a big step forwards. It's a sign that ministers and civil servants are finally recognising that bikes can play a central role in getting people from place to place, particularly in congested and polluted cities. It's no longer viewed as simply a niche choice for the young, the poor or the faddish.

So where do we go from here? There are two things to consider.

First, irrespective of the endless photographs of David Cameron and Boris Johnson on their bikes, are there any real signs that the Conservatives, who seem most likely to be drawing up the next big national transport plan, are committed to cycling?

Second, let's suppose you were appointed the government's bike tsar tomorrow, with unlimited influence and a huge budget. How would you bring cycling into the mainstream?

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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