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Sustaining sustainability??

February 12, 2012

Tain, Scotland –  Bicycle bicycle bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like…

Well actually I don’t but the UK Government think I should and are doing their level best to induce me to do so.

Now that the green wing of the Liberal Democrat coalition is getting into its stride the buzz around Westminster is one of main-streaming sustainable development. So after a lull lets welcome back sustainable transport and its ring meister Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport “stormin” Norman Baker.

Trouble is that in Norms little world sustainable transport seems to equal cycling. Hence this week he announced a package of support worth £15 million to fund sustainable cycling projects across the country. I should point out that this funding is on top of financial support for cycling from the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments and in addition to the £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which the 426 local authorities in the UK can apply to for funding things like cycling infrastructure, cycle training etc. BTW we should also remember that the last Labour UK government spent around £1 billion on promoting cycling.

Unsurprising then that things that facilitate cycling are springing up like toadstools. Parking racks all over the place, dedicated cycle tracks and routes, repair facilities at railway stations, laws allowing cycling against the flow of traffic in one-way streets, advance stop lines, road re-engineering, cycle hire schemes, subsidised  cycle training, free cycling helmets etc etc etc. Think of something cycling wise and its almost certainly being funded.

Hey but motorcyclists and scooterists are getting a good deal too! Just consider our benefits. 28 of the UK’s 426 local authorities give us access to bus lanes. Only last week we were allowed access to a bus lane about 800 metres long in sunny Bedford. Its reckoned that 4 local authorities are trialling anti skid access covers (man hole covers).

We get to enter the London congestion charging zone for free, but that’s only because the charging system, when installed, could not handle motorcycles. We can use the bus lanes in London which are part of the Transport for London (TfL) Road network. But not the ones in the vast majority of London Boroughs. We had access to the M4 motorway bus lane until it was closed. What’s more we get to cruise around some of the UK’s finest towns and cities searching for secure motorcycle parking that a) is none existent b) badly maintained or c) so jammed with bikes that you can’t park.

The problem is that we are not sustainable transport wise or at least “stormin” Norman Baker thinks, is advised or briefed that we are not.

Consider how the  European Union Council of Ministers of Transport define a sustainable transportation system:

Allows the basic access and development needs of individuals, companies and society to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and promotes equity within and between successive generations.

Is Affordable, operates fairly and efficiently, offers a choice of transport mode, and supports a competitive economy, as well as balanced regional development.

Limits emissions and waste within the planet’s ability to absorb them, uses renewable resources at or below their rates of generation, and uses non-renewable resources at or below the rates of development of renewable substitutes, while minimizing the impact on the use of land and the generation of noise.

Perhaps I’m biased but the motorcycle and scooter fit quite snugly into that definition.

I’m not sure if “stormin” Norman Baker is spouting hogwash or greenwash but I am certain this is more about a political doctrine than a transport system that includes a fair shout for ALL modes.

Enjoy a sustaining ride.

© Back Roads Rider 2012

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 11:50 am

    Yep. I’d agree with that. I cycle and motorcycle and I know which is more dangerous! Both my boys cycle (like I have 10 cycles in garage from one four from the other + my wife’s and my own!!!). They will jump on their bikes and think nothing of cycling 70 miles. Madness!

    Oh and everyone of us has been hit by a car at some point. Both boys have permanent scars. Now Motorcycling (I’ve been riding 35 years and never had an accident other than the occasional drop in the garage but nothing over 1mph and nothing involving anyone else) isn’t promoted so I am told because it is SOOOOOOO dangerous!!!!!!


    Well yes in comparison to cars mile for mile la la la. But. If that’s the case WTF about cyclists then? Why is this being promoted? It just doesn’t stack up. I suspect it has more to do with “reported accidents” rather than everyone knows someone that has been hurt on a bicycle common sense.

    Green? Well, yes I suppose unless you count every single car that has to slow down the re-accelerate burning loads more fuel. Then there are the laws of physics…no free energy exists. Remember my boys doing their 70 miles? where does that energy come from?…you should see my food bill!!! (and the environmental impact of sending one extra artic. of food to Sainsbury’s every year to supply this extra need…is that factored into the green equation? I bet not!

    CO I bet cyclists breathe more heavily when cycling? that factored in?

    cycling sustainable? It has its place… but factoring in EVERYTHING I don’t think it is quite as green as its made out to be…

  2. February 13, 2012 7:17 pm

    Also cyclists, like all nonces, shower two or three times a day.

    Heh, OK, I occasionally squeeze into the lycra and sweat my way to the office, but even I get hacked off with the focus on cycling in a cold, wet country with poorly maintained roads and junctions that put cyclists at serious risk. I’ve yet to have a proper collision on the pushbike, but I have stoppied just short of going over the bonnet of a plodmobile which decided to belt it straight through a roundabout from a left turn only lane, left flasher still merrily blinking. Probably heard about a sale on at Greggs.

    Cycling is a “sometimes” activity, it’s not a complete replacement for motor vehicles anywhere outside of major metropolitan areas in southern latitudes, i.e. That London.


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