A UKIP parliamentary candidate in Newcastle upon Tyne has published a leaflet attacking the provision of cycle infrastructure. Daniel Thompson claims that "cyclists are the chosen people" and that "motorists are simply a cash cow." [See update below]
Thompson is an antiques dealer and is standing in Newcastle Central. Two other UKIP candidates, standing in Newcastle East and Newcastle North, also put their names on the leafet.
A protected cycleway is to be built in the centre of Newcastle and there are also cycleways to be built close to Thompson's home in Gosforth. Thompson parks his car outside his house on Gosforth High Street and has been leading a campaign to prevent Newcastle City Council from installing double red lines on the road. Gosforth High Street is part of the Great North Road and is a major bus route. Traffic surveys and census data show that Gosforth is one of Newcastle's top cycling suburbs – the Great North Road leads to the Town Moor cycle path, a major thoroughfare for cyclists.
Newcastle is one of the Government's "cycle cities" and has been awarded a £10m Cycling Cities Ambition grant to improve conditions for cyclists. Thompson dislikes £10m being given to Newcastle, claiming "How many elderly ladies will get on their bikes on a dark December night in Newcastle? Not many."
He adds, "Surely giving rights to cyclists, who are usually young people, is discrimination against the elderly and infirm?"
Thompson clearly doesn't want cyclists to have "rights" but, according to the leaflet, he does want them to carry number plates and have insurance.
"If the Council is so concerned about public safety why don't they get cyclists to put bells on their bikes," he asks. He also claims, without stating how he arrived at the figure, that Newcastle City Council is spending "£10,000 per cyclist" to create "cycle lanes paved with gold."
Thompson's leaflet also complains that the Cycling Cities Ambition grant "make work for Council employees" and somehow this is "to the detriment of the citizens of Newcastle." It appears that to Thompson cyclists are not citizens of Newcastle. "Vote UKIP and get a fair deal for motorists," he concludes.
Despite all of the above, it has been brought to our attention that last year Thompson told Newcastle City Council he was in favour of cycle lanes. [A would-be politician saying one thing to one audience and the opposite to another? Tell us this cannot be true!]
Here's what Thompson said:
"We believe that the only way to encourage people to use cycle tracks is to implement continuous 24 hour cycle tracks which are protected by raised curbs the full length of the High Street. By reducing the traffic lanes to one each way we will calm traffic flow, create space for cycle tracks and valuable residential parking spaces where they are desperately needed to the south of the high street where the current advisory cycle tracks are located. Uniquely on this stretch there is enough space for cycle tracks, traffic and parking.
"Cycle tracks need to be protected from traffic by a raised curb and they also need a visual or physical barrier or differentiation from pedestrians to safeguard both cyclists and pedestrians. This can be done by the use of a variety of curb/barriers, coloured cycle tracks using different materials in their construction.
"The use of dropped pavement then raised curb (wide enough to offer protection from traffic and parked cars doors opening) followed where possible by parking spaces and then traffic lanes is the best solution. The cycle tracks could be dual or placed upon either side of the road, although dual cycle tracks may take up less road space and make junctions and turning points easier and cheaper to implement depending on the design and physical protection method. In any case we ask that the design of junctions and turning points be more carefully considered. We also urge planners to consult more fully with organisations such as the Newcastle Cycling Campaign, who some may argue have been wholly under-consulted. To the south of the High Street the lack of street furniture and utility cabinets, as well as the spacious width of the pavement, mean that cycle tracks and parking spaces can be implemented relatively cheaply and simply compared to other areas of the High Street. In addition the area is residential rather than commercial, given the total absence of retail outlets."