Sustrans urges policy makers to 'think bike'

Challenge ahead for charity as it battles car-centric policy
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Challenge ahead for charity as it battles car-centric policy

One of cycling’s biggest challenges is to re-educate policy makers and challenge ‘common
sense’ that places cars at the centre of future policies, according to Sustrans.

The sustainable transport charity said that generations of acceptance of pro-car policy was one of its biggest challenges, and that Sustrans is the right organisation to tackle the pro-car consensus.

Speaking to BikeBiz, the Sustrans director for Wales, Lee Waters, commented that urging councils and local authorities to look beyond cars is a huge task: “There have been generations of acceptance, and the car-centric status quo has gradually built up over the years,” Waters told BikeBiz. “The consensus to cater for cars needs to be dramatically changed, on grounds of public health and carbon emissions at least.

“But it’s a powerful mindset to change, and we want to start to get people thinking about it. We can challenge conventional thinking – we can show them best practise.”

Sustran’s director for Wales believes local authorities are almost deterred from thinking beyond cars when planning new developments: “There’s a financial disincentive for councils and local authorities to create paths for bikes,” Waters told BikeBiz. “There are structural biases in place – money is set aside for roads, but typically no funds are allocated to shared paths.

“It’s difficult to persuade policy makers and it’s difficult to get joined-up thinking between the various departments to think about bikes when planning.”

But Waters said that Sustrans is up to the daunting challenge of taking on car-focused policies and changing mindsets of decision makers: “Being right isn’t enough – we need to persuade them to make the right decision. We’ve got an influencing strategy and we speak to local councils and MPs. People have heard of us and we have a good reputation.”

Waters pointed to the ‘Center Parcs’ style Vauban development in Germany – a ‘sustainable model district’ where 40 per cent of households had agreed to live without their own cars. Waters held the community, which was established in the early 21st Century, as an example of what can be achieved.

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