“Vote blue, go green” – just not by bike

Reading random snippets from the Tory manifesto is a bit like listening to the intro of James Brown’s Sex Machine. James Brown builds up the crowd with a series of lines about getting up to do his “thing”, the crowd goes wild…and then he does do his thing…

The Conservative manifesto works along a similar line with wonderful sweeping statements aimed to whip the voting public into such a frenzy of blue madness: 

We will make it easier for people to go green, with incentives for people to do the right thing.

Perhaps there is the hope that by stirring the nation into some sort of bacchic voting trance with encouraging notes, we will forget ourselves and not look to the substance…

However unlike the masterful James Brown, where his tarrumph of drums and soul ridden beats drives into a classic tune, the manifesto plays a long flat raspberry.

With a leader of a party that is known for his prominent cycling, and a supposed shadow cabinet on two wheels, this manifesto was bare of any real concrete initiatives for cyclists, and I can only imagine that this will be the case for many of their other policies.

Still, let us give them a chance to speak for themselves.

Britain has the chance to lead the world in making our transport system greener.”

Wonderful! Do tell me how…

“…[by] giving the concerns of cyclists much greater priority

Fab news…but what does the Conservative party consider these concerns to be? Damned if I know as their manifesto reveals diddly squat. It is just some sort of empty winded guff which one has come to expect. I had hoped that the Conservatives reluctance to voice their policies before purdah began was due to a perhaps realistic fear that these might be stolen by the opposition. It can happen…and should happen – to my mind no ruling party should turn down a worthwhile policy just because it is not theirs.

The transport and green policies instead revolve around some bucolic vision of the future, presumably where the sun always shines, the grass is perpetually green and animals can roam free about the countryside, until they are hunted down by someone riding a green horse, or firing a green shotgun.

Our cars run on electricity and high speed trains take us across the country in less time than it takes to get across the capital.”

Trains…now there’s a common theme coming through here in the party manifestos…Perhaps something on bicycles here – something on perhaps encouraging train companies to take up initiatives that would be friendly to the biwheeled brethren…

We will grant longer, more flexible rail franchises to incentivise private sector investment in improvements like longer trains and better stations.”

Oh joy.

I am absolutely positive that longer more flexible franchises will see a series of remarkable and ground breaking changes across the national rail infrastructure. How could I doubt such a thing? Well presumably because the private sector has increased passenger cost and little else since the railways were privatised.

What exactly makes up a “better station” as well? These words are empty nonsense – well meaning perhaps – but utterly vacuous. Definition is needed – something which Labour actually gave with their promise for an increase in secure facilities for bikes. Why could the Conservatives not do the same?

The same goes for their idea of longer trains. Obviously longer trains mean more space, which means more people will be willing to take the train etc. However, if the facilities are not already in place to make getting to the train station, then what is the point? Coordinated bus services with the train operators are a must, as is extra parking at the station – both car and cycle. Ideally these longer trains would also be made bicycle friendly as well (see previous blog on the Labour Party Manifesto for some suggestions on this). Also…what good are longer trains if they cannot actually stop at the platform to load passengers? Throughout the UK, there are small train stations which are frequently overshot (on purpose) due to the train being too long. An increase in longer trains could see either the headache of further planning permission to extend current stations – or perhaps more likely see these little rural outposts overlooked.

The one oasis of calm in the whole manifesto – the green haven from the storm of spin – is a case study of the German city of Freiburg found on page 90. According to the Manifesto Freiburg over the last 30 years has seen 500km of bike lanes laid and 9,000 bike parking sites. The city “is a world leader in environmental sustainability” and has the lowest car usage of all urban areas in Germany. It sounds a heavenly place for the cyclist – and is probably immensely flat too, or perhaps it is also designed by Esher so every road goes downhill for those on two wheels. Seeing this tucked away towards the arse end of the manifesto, with no prior mention is a slap in the face to the UK. All it demonstrates is how far we have to go, and the unlikelihood of this ever happening with a Blue government. Thanks Dave

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