It won’t have escaped your attention that Westminster is already in full-on campaign mode for May’s General Election.
It can be a perplexing working out which MPs are truly backing cycling, with political parties one moment pledging cash for cycling and then swiftly moving on to squabble over which party will spend the least on cycling. Anything to secure a few votes, eh?
UKIP has been around since 1993 (thanks Wikipedia), but it’s in the five years since the last General Election – the one where we ended up with the first peacetime Coalition Government in over a century – that UKIP has really emerged on the political stage, thanks in no small part to extended media coverage.
Part of the reason UKIP has made gains is, we’re told, because the main political parties have been alienating many voters, the kind for whom Farage’s ‘man down the pub’ schtick has struck a chord. Never mind UKIPs hugely vague and often troubling policies on many big topics, here is a man that appears (to some) to say what he means and give a straight answer to a straight question. Even if it is the kind of answer you hoped you’d never have to hear in the 21st Century.
The concept of our traditional political parties not adequately representing the nation does sound familiar, not that I’m really trying to equate cyclists with UKIPPERS, you understand.
According to the 2011 census, a quarter of the nation doesn’t have a car – so over 16 million of your fellow UK humans don’t give a proverbial monkeys about pro-motoring policies. Who is representing that 16 million?
While we’ve heard some encouraging stuff from the Coalition on cycling with a few million being pledged to two wheeled transport, we’ve seen nothing comparable to the £15bn promised for new roads and motoring. And nothing remotely close to the recommendations of the cross-party Get Britain Cycling report, which technically is something all the political parties should agree on.
Sometimes it truly does feel like there’s a gaping hole of representation for cyclists and non-motorists alike.
But it’s a tricky topic – aside from the fact many cyclists are car owners (like myself) – many bike businesses are affected by fuel duty and pro-motorist policies, so many of us are, perhaps furtively, in favour of car centrism, so long as it doesn’t adversely affect cyclists.
However, as the nation’s waistline bulges and air quality declines it’s getting harder to sit on the fence. At the risk of putting it too simplistically, will you, come May, be using your vote for cars or for cyclists?