Over 50 constituencies joined the inaugural workshop of Labour Cycles in Manchester. Leading councillors, academics, Chris Boardman, and Rachael Maskell MP outlined the imperative for action and practical steps Labour can make to improve communities.
Key points from the day:
- Britain faces an epidemic of health issues related to sedentary lifestyles and air pollution.
- Active travel, embedded in our daily journeys to school, work and the shops is the only real solution.
- Cycling a bike and crossing the road should not require bravery.
- Poor cycling infrastructure discriminates most against the elderly, children, women and the disabled.
- Politicians are systematically underestimating public support for change, watering down infrastructure.
- A lack of high-quality national design standards means that money is often wasted.
- Labour Cycles is now formally constituted and will be campaigning within the Labour party for leadership on this issue locally and nationally.
10:45 Keynote – Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester, Walking & Cycling Commissioner
‘This is not about bikes, it’s about making nicer places to live’. A compelling presentation talk, practical and laser-focused on changing the way that Greater Manchester moves.
- Riding a bike or crossing a street should not require bravery
- 3% of children cycle to school in Manchester vs 50% in the Netherlands
- Manchester should have at least 10x more trips done by bike based on its geography
- Every £1 spent on cycling infrastructure will return £5.50
Taking inspiration from other European cities and the Arndale centre, Chris made it clear, if routes for walking and cycling are safe, quick and convenient, they will be used.
With the need to show build political will and public support, Chris highlighted New York’s use of temporary measures including planters, temporary kerbs and paint to quickly demonstrate how projects improve neighbourhoods.
11:15 Lessons learnt on the ground – Panel session
Hackney – Cllr Feryal Demirci, Executive Member, Hackney Council
- Hackney has implemented over 125 traffic filters on its roads, introduced play streets outside schools and now enjoys the highest cycling rates of cycling in London.
- Labour Group in Hackney use transport policy as a tool to create better envinroments and improve public health.
- Slides – Cllr Feryal Demirci
Cardiff – Gwenda Owen – CTC trustee, Co-founder Cardiff Cycle City
- Wales has a new Active travel law and willing political leads but there remains a way to go. Is the issue budgetary? Gwenda shared the Cardiff: Cycle City story.
- Slides – Gwenda Owen, Cardiff
Newcastle – Katja Leyendeker – Co-chair, Newcastle Cycling Campaign
- Newcastle now has a significant budget for cycling infrastructure; Katja talks about some impressive initial projects that could be improved with a city-wide network approach and a more open working relationship with campaigners.
- Slides – K. Leyendecker Newcastle Cycling Campaign
Waltham Forest – Cllr Clyde Loakes – Deputy Leader, Waltham Forest Council
- Hear the extraordinary story of London’s first Mini-Holland scheme. The scale of the ambition, the ferocity of the bike-lash and the extraordinary results to date.
- Cllr Loakes makes a passionate case for the need for political leadership and encourages councils to follow Waltham Forest’s lead.
- Slides – Cllr Loakes @ Labour Cycles
12:05 Keynote – Rachael Maskell MP, Shadow Minister for Transport
Rachael Maskell’s tour de force, through the politics of how we move, impressed the room.
Clear calls for sustained investment in cycling infrastructure, the need to increase political will and to be clear on the link between our health policy and transport infrastructure.
Video to add
13:30 Dockless Bikes – What do they offer Local Authorities? Fraser Seifert, ofo
In less than 4 years, Dockless schemes have been rolled out in dozens of cities worldwide and enabled millions of journeys to be taken by bike.
Fraser talked about the need to work closely with local authorities, the ethical management of bikes on our streets and how dockless bikes enable residents without access to secure bike parking to benefit from active travel.
13:50 Understanding barriers to participation across gender, age & disability (and what we can do about it)
Dr Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster & Trustee LCC
Dr Aldred’s passionate speech exploded common myths around who uses bikes for everyday transport in the UK. This incisive talk was backed with recent, substantive data.
- Humans tend to invent myths to justify the world the way they see it. They don’t understand it is just a function of a system.
- If you think cycling is a middle-class activity – you are wrong and likely to be making poor planning decisions. Cycling is not a middle-class religion, car ownership is.
- Dutch women cycle more than Dutch men! Over 30% of all journeys are completed by bike for women aged 60+.
- Women feel especially vulnerable in hostile road environments – protected infrastructure and reduced traffic is a must.
- Poor cycling infrastructure particularly impacts women and the elderly. Indirect cycling routes, routes via poorly lit backstreet and ‘hassle-barriers’ clearly discriminate against women, older people and the disabled.
14:20 Cycling and the Health of the Nation – Dr Adrian Davis
Dr Davis outlined the incontrovertible evidence that active travel, particularly cycling, has a profound impact on health outcomes at a population-wide level.
From reductions in cardiovascular and diabetic diseases so dramatic they would be labelled a ‘Wonder-drug’ if sold by big pharma, to the imperative of removing kinetic energy from our roads and thinking about system-level approaches to danger reduction, the talk was eye-opening.
Drawing on decades of research, statements from the Chief Medical Officer and clear NICE recommendations the core question remaining was why have local and national politicians been so slow to take action?
Dr Davis shared how ‘pluralistic ignorance’ was a driver of political cowardice despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the need to change our spatial and road network planning.
Dr Davis shared his own work on nudging politicians using simple briefing papers.
14:50 Infrastructure – State of the nation – Mark Treasure, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain
Mark Treasure’s talk was a rude wake-up call. Talk of a cycling revolution is much exaggerated we are seeing a small blip against a decline over 40 years. Perhaps more frustratingly – poor design standards and a lack of political will mean that millions of pounds is spent on infrastructure that does not work for all.
He outlined simple strategies for adjusting existing spend to ensure that cycling as a mode of everyday transport could make it’s unique contribution to our cities.
15:05 Next steps – The path to securing a manifesto commitment – All
The meeting unanimously decided to incorporate as Labour Cycles with all Labour party members present becoming initial members.
We agreed our constitution and an interim committee has been formed with representatives from 14 constituencies across the UK.
Initial work-streams that the group will look at include:
- Drafting the type of manifesto commitments we believe that Labour should be making at a national level
- Creating materials for councillors who want to show leadership around active travel
- Planning attendance at Labour party conference this year
- Affiliating both to the Labour party and other socialist societies
- Growing our membership.