Ely Cycling Campaign would like to respond to recent comments about cycling reported in the Cambridge Evening News (and also Cycling Weekly and road.cc) made by one of our local councillors, Bill Hunt, Conservative County Councillor for Haddenham and District Councillor for Stretham.
In a meeting of the highways and community infrastructure committee Councillor Hunt is reported to have said:
“I think cyclists could contribute a bit to their safety and I think we should see if we can bring in some sort of local legislation to make it illegal to ride a bicycle without a helmet, and make it illegal to ride with one of those ridiculous flimsy tent things for their children.
“It seems unreasonable for us as a nanny state to make everything great and spend lots of money when the people themselves aren’t regulated and aren’t helping themselves with a crash helmet.”
We obviously totally disagree with these views which fly in the face of logic and have no basis in reality.
We don’t want to get bogged down in a debate about the effectiveness of cycle helmets, as Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy advisor has said, helmets are not in the top 10 issues affecting cyclists in Britain.
However we do want to address the negative effect of mandatory helmet laws.
Getting more people travelling by bike rather than car is good for society as a whole.
It is well known that increased levels of cycling generally benefit society as a whole. Amongst other things cycling improves the environment by reducing air and noise pollution, improves the health of both those who cycle and (through reduced pollution) those who don’t which in turn reduces the strain on the NHS, and reduces congestion which improves traffic flow for all traffic.
Mandatory helmet laws reduce the number of people who travel by bike
It’s also well documented (for example from Australia) that mandatory helmet laws reduce the number of people who travel by bike.
Therefore, mandatory helmet laws are bad for society as a whole.
Better cycling infrastructure is required
What would benefit everyone is improved cycling facilities, as this has a huge effect on increasing the number of people who travel by bike rather than by car. You only have to look at countries like the Netherlands where huge numbers of people of all ages travel by bike everyday to see the effect good infrastructure has.
In Cambridgeshire everything is not great
Councillor Hunt claims lots of money has been spent on making everything great.
We’ve got news for Councillor Hunt, lots of money hasn’t been spent and things are a very long way from great.
No dedicated funding for cycling
The County Council has no dedicated funds for cycling infrastructure, all cycling improvements are funded by handouts from either developers or central government. This means that very little is spent on cycling within the rural parts of the county (like East Cambridgeshire the area Councillor Hunt represents) with Cambridge City faring only slightly better.
In the last 10 years around £500,000 has been spent on cycling in East Cambridgeshire. Most of that money (70%) being spent in the last 2 months on a single scheme comprising of a sinlge mile of segregated cycleway. We’re not sure how this can be classed as ′′making everything great′′.
Out of step
It seems that Councillor Hunt’s views are out of step with what’s good for the community he represents, the County’s stated policies (to encourage sustainable alternatives to the private car, including […] cycling), as well as the ethos of his party (the Conservatives being traditionally a party of small government not one that proposes additional unnecessary legislation), and other Conservative County and District Councillors who have supported improved provision for cycling in East Cambridgeshire.
Perhaps Councillor Hunt’s declared interest as a ″Consultant to the motor industry″ is the true reason for his odd outburst. We might be old-fashioned but we feel it would be nice if councillors represented their communities rather than large industrial interests.
Time for a change?
Councillor Hunt’s seat on the District Council is being contested this May and his County Council seat will be contested next year.
Perhaps the good people of Stretham and Haddenham will decide it’s time for a change of council representation.