The managing director of Brompton Bike Hire has become the latest voice in the cycling industry to criticize Rishi Sunak’s recently announced series of “proudly pro-car” policies, describing the Prime Minister’s attempt to stop the so-called “wars on drivers” as a “wedge policy” and an “artificial construct” that “will hopefully dissipate within a certain period of time.”
Speaking at the same event, the chief executive of a local health center in Birmingham, which is currently working with Brompton to encourage more local women to cycle, said Sunak’s ‘Driver Plan’ was a ‘short-term vote winner’ that ‘ in the long run it will cost everyone.”
Last week, Mark Harper’s transport secretary announced the introduction at the Conservative Party conference of a series of pro-tourism policies outlined by the prime minister a few days earlier, including a review of 20mph speed limits (and opposition to their “entire application”) and low-traffic districts , has been roundly condemned by cycling and active travel campaigners, with Cycling UK accusing the government of “setting to undermine” some of the “most effective transport policies of recent years” in a “misguided attempt to drum up support” ahead of the next general election.
> A cycling organization accuses the Conservatives of an “unfortunate attempt to gain votes” with a promotional policy that “undermines” the success of active travel
Julian Scriven, managing director of Brompton Bike Hire, joined this chorus of disapproval when speaking at an event in Birmingham, where the company teamed up with a local community center cycling club to offer extended loan of folding bikes to women in deprived areas in an attempt to encourage everyday cycling bicycle.
Referring to Sunak’s ‘Plan for Drivers’ and the relative underfunding of active travel measures in the West Midlands, Scriven told Birmingham Live: ‘We have the lowest per capita spending in England on funding cycling and activity.
“I think the wedge policy of cyclists versus drivers is an artificial construct. When was the last time we heard that bus users were against tram users? Hopefully it will develop over time.
“I’ve been working to get more people cycling now. If you want people from low-income households or ethnic communities to start cycling, it’s real work and it takes a huge commitment.”
> Rishi Sunak’s ‘driver plan’ will ‘rob selected people’ and force them to drive, say cycling and walking campaigners
Naseem Akhtar, CEO of Saheli Hub, agrees, whose cycling club – which focuses on teaching South Asian women of all ages to cycle to improve their physical and mental health – received 15 bikes from Brompton, with a further 35 loaned to locals . that Sunak’s promotional policy could have a devastating long-term impact on the health of people from lower-income backgrounds.
“Most communities live in crowded areas, which affects their health,” he says. “If more people become active, you save the whole system, including the NHS and the long-term costs of coronary heart disease and diabetes.”
Responding to the Prime Minister’s proposals, she added: “I think it’s a short-term vote winner for him and his supporters, but in the long run it will cost everyone.
“Life expectancy in the districts where we operate, most men don’t even make it to 65, which is shocking. This should be a scandal. As soon as men over 60 die, the family falls into poverty, not only because the majority are still breadwinners, but it affects the entire family.”
> Chris Boardman urges Rishi Sunak to stick to ‘fantastic’ cycling plans, admits concerns over ‘war on drivers’ policy language
Last week, after the Conservative politician unveiled his much-discussed ‘Plan for Drivers’, national active travel commissioner Chris Boardman urged Sunak to “just stick to” policies promoting active travel, while Cycling UK chief executive Sarah Mitchell urged government to present a plan that takes into account all modes of transport, not just those who drive cars.
Mitchell said: “When Beeching attacked the local railways in the 1960s, we were robbed of our freedom to choose how to travel. It seems that history is repeating itself as the government’s reported “driver plan”.
“We need a holistic travel plan, not a plan focusing on one specific mode of transport. A plan that gives us the freedom to choose how we travel, maximizing our ability to choose healthy, cheap and convenient options.
“Better public transport and safer ways of cycling and walking are fully compatible with driving. Focusing on one way to travel is like putting together a puzzle with half the pieces missing.
“NO. 10 appears intent on undermining some of the Government’s most effective transport policies in recent years. Ministers should be proud of their walking and cycling achievements, rather than abandoning them in a misguided attempt to gain support ahead of the general election.”
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