Azara Blog: Politicians fall over themselves to throw money at the cycling lobby

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Date published: 2012/04/24

The Cambridge News says:

Election candidates in Cambridge are being urged to spell out their views on improving facilities for the city's army of cyclists.

Members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign have drawn up a set of questions for the hopefuls vying for seats in the city council's 14 wards.

Nearly 60 candidates have put their names forward for the election on Thursday, May 3.

A spokesman for the cycling campaign said: "We have sent a shortlist of questions to each candidate to find out what they think about improving provision for cycling in Cambridge and nearby.

"Their responses can be seen on our website when we have received them. Voters can then take these views into account alongside other issues of concern to them."

Among the questions posed is whether the candidates, if elected, would seek to reinstate a full-time cycling officer post on the city council, axed as part of council cutbacks.

They have also been asked to say if they support plans for the Chisholm Trail - a cycling and walking route that would link Cambridge Science Park to Addenbrooke's.

Tim Haire, standing for the Conservatives in Abbey ward, said: "Conservatives support more and better dedicated cycle parking facilities around the city.

"We would consider converting existing car parking facilities where necessary, but not as an anti-car measure.

"We support the Chisholm Trail as a fantastic way to improve the transport infrastructure of the city."

Labour's leader on the council, Lewis Herbert, said: "Our manifesto includes detailed cycling plans and reverses the Lib Dems' crazy decision to cut the city's full-time cycling officer to half time, which is damaging delivery of badly needed secure cycle parking at the station and city centre, and allowing planning applications with inadequate cycling provision.

One of the problems with elections is that every Tom, Dick and Harry Special Interest Pressure Group, like the CCC, crawls out of the woodwork and manages to get politicians to promise ever increasing amounts of money be spent on their special interest. After all, what is a politician to do, say "get in the queue with every other special interest pressure group begging for money" and lose votes from that group (and in this case, the group is an extremely vocal community in Cambridge). Or should a politician just cave in and promise the earth and expect (generally correctly) that nobody will notice that in the end someone else will have to pay for it all.

The Tory candidate is hilarious. He says "We would consider converting existing car parking facilities where necessary, but not as an anti-car measure." Well, that is an anti-car measure. Just because he says it is not does not mean it is not. Obviously the reason he wants to say this is that the Tories are just about the only political party that has some pretense not to hate drivers, and he is trying not to piss them off, even though what he is promoting will piss them off.

The Labour person is not much better. The city's cycling officer is one of the typical "non jobs" that have practically bankrupted the country. There is no reason for the city to have such a job at all. The city does not have a car officer, even though in Cambridge (in spite of the perpetual campaign of vilification waged by the CCC) there are more drivers than cyclists. This kind of job is a complete and utter waste of taxpayers' money. But Labour is very good at wasting public money.

Of course both Tories and Labour are happy to plug the Chisholm Trail. What is there not to like about that. It doesn't really impact drivers so nobody could possibly be against it. Except that it will cost a lot of money, which taxpayers will have to provide. Unfortunately politicians never bother to worry about costs or about whether such projects represent good value for money. (The Chisholm Trail might very well represent good value for money.)

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