Space for Cycling campaign ride Oct 6th – Highlights and Interviews

The Conservative Party conference, combined with the continual roadworks has shut off huge parts of the city centre and made it very difficult to cycle in, often impossible to do so legally.  Nevertheless, with holes in the ring road, and steel fences and cones in the heart of the city making it more congested then ever, it just makes it clearer how much Manchester stands to benefit from increased cycling.

So GMCC organised a ride to coincide with the party conference, as they did with Labour last year, and although circumstances were more challenging amongst gridlock and the elements, there was also more to gain.  The Infrastructure Act that passed earlier this year included a legal requirement to introduce a cycling and walking investment strategy, which would end the short-term funding that means councils like those across Greater Manchester need to rush out plans that are often poor to get the money to build them.

Politicians generally agree that cycling is good and important but fail to prioritise it, since there is little harm in making positive noises and benefitting from cycling’s good image when not following up is only noticed by politically active cyclists.  However, now the government will have to report to Parliament on the strategy at least every five years.  This small step means that at the very least, when the government does not back cycling, it will have to admit it.  Every rider who was soaked through on Tuesday evening is a symbol of the determination that is out there to make them see it through, and that they will be measured.

Music, community and a sense of purpose meant that squeezing through gaps in idling traffic was still fun, and I was very grateful to the participants who very aptly gave their reasons for coming and hopes for the future for the video above.  I also liked Dr Sarah Wollaston’s attitude (MP for Totnes, Treasurer of the Health Committee and now head of the all-party cycling group that helped lobby for the investment strategy), though I hope she is aware that her chancellor is cutting every transport option bar new trunk roads.  Mass cycling would provide the most benefits to the working class who have the fewest affordable transport options, but nevertheless it should not be a politically divisive issue.

Dom Torrisi has written a more thorough write up of the ride if you’re interested, and everyone should see the great, short six steps for better cycling at space4cycling.org.uk. Even better, email your MP and sign the petition at www.gmcc.org.uk/s4c.

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