Cycling isn’t about politics, but it is.

This post is inspired by a tweet by Hilton Holloway. He’s a chap whose engineering writing I greatly admire. However, some of his tweets leave me perplexed:

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 21.59.48

Now sure, one might feel that providing infrastructure to prevent deaths is “nanny state” – there are, of course, still those who mutter about ‘elf n safety nonsense that prevents deaths on construction sites. But is building infrastructure for mass cycling really leftie?

Now, I’ll confess to being slightly leftie on a few things. But I could hardly be called a working class warrior, rather all mixed up. Comp educated, not from a financially well-off background, now done alright but firmly believe in paying one’s fair share and that shafting others isn’t the way to get ahead. Pigeon hole that if you will.

So is cycling for everyone political?

It’s not Political

Is mass cycling infrastructure a leftie plot to curtail our freedom? True, the majority of mass-cycling people on Twitter appear to be left leaning. But this could well be a function of People on Twitter: after all the Conservative win in the election took the Twitterati by surprise. Let’s look at the appeal of cycling.

Personal appeal:

  • The sense of personal freedom that it provides
  • Not being tied to public transport
  • Taking care of one’s health (personal responsibility)
  • Fiscally responsible (well, mostly…)

Benefits for Councils:

So cycling is actually about the individual. Sure, the population benefits from reduced emissions and road deaths, which is accounted for under the socialised externalities of public investment in health budgets. But the individual gets to travel swiftly through towns, keep healthy and invest or spend the money they’d otherwise squander on travel for short journeys.

So accusing cycling of being leftie or nanny-state seems wide of the mark, at the least. Perhaps it’s from a belief that cycling is the poor man’s option. But that argument doesn’t really hold up either:

Jenson Button. He drives a faster car than you, he's wealthier than you and he's probably faster on a bike. (Image (c) The Times)
Jenson Button. He drives a faster car than you, he’s wealthier than you and he’s probably faster on a bike. (Image (c) The Times)

But it’s all about Politics

However, implementing mass infrastructure is inherently political. We need to do things differently to how they were done in 1950 when we had fewer cars (never popular among some of the electorate). What’s more, we need to look at what hasn’t worked. Schemes that throw money at educating cyclists and drivers have not worked. Creating infrastructure on a par with the Dutch cannot happen without political will.

So the politics of cycling is not party politics, but about councillors and governments making the decision to look at facts rather than relying on the hysterical reaction of the we-hate-change brigade. It’s the politics that requires politicians to get off their backsides, see where the problems are and see what’s worked.

Infrastructure for cycling is not party political. But it does require political will.


Author: Stuff Rich Writes

Cyclist and Product Manager. I blog about both.

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