In my decade or so as a cycling activist, writer and campaigner, I’ve never known a time like this, when I’ve really felt we’re on the brink of a revolution.
The government at last seem to have cottoned on to the fact that we have a public health crisis, with inactivity-related diseases and illnesses resulting from exposure to pollution on the increase.
Getting people on their bikes and out of their cars is being seen as a good thing and at last we’re seeing an increase in funding for cycling. More importantly, it really looks as if local authorities will be forced to provide proper infrastructure, rather than the half-hearted, box-ticking rubbish that so often masquerades as a “cycle path.”
But, there are dark clouds. Powerful voices are calling for environmental and safety laws to be watered down or even dropped as they’re “limiting economic growth.”
Apparently, it’s more important to make money for the 1% than to limit the effects of pollution and inactivity on children’s health. Anyone who questions that is branded an “extremist.”
The same arguments were used against the abolition of slavery and, more recently, to justify using lead in petrol.
The reality is politicians of most colours will not challenge the vested interests of the roads and oil lobbies.
If we are to prevent the worst effects of climate change and improve public health we have to make bold decisions.
The city of Paris has just announced that all diesel and older petrol cars will be banned by 2020. Smaller towns in Holland, Germany and Switzerland have had similar rules for years.
We haven’t seen anything so radical, yet necessary, here. Instead, we have the media giving seemingly unlimited airtime to political opportunists who deny the reality of climate change, prefacing ill-informed rubbish with the words “everyone knows” and presenting downright lies as “common sense.” That needs to be challenged.
That’s why I’m now stepping down from my cycling campaigning and taking on a new role as transport spokesman for the West Norfolk Green Party. Transport cannot be seen in isolation, and the challenges we face will not simply be solved by using a more benign transport mode but by a wholesale review of how we plan and manage our towns, cities and villages.
Lynn’s appalling air quality will not be improved simply by allowing taxis to use a busy cycle and busway.
This will be my last column, but you will see my name crop up in this paper regularly over the next few months. Farewell and Happy Christmas. See you on the road.