Spokes Delivers Strong Letter to Council
Posted by chdot on February 10, 2008
Cycle campaign group Spokes has delivered a letter (166k PDF) to City of Edinburgh Council Leader Jenny Dawe (and members of the Transport Committee) detailing many of the issues that require sustained and/or increased funding.
The timing is deliberate – just ahead of the Council’s budget. This will be the first one by the Lib Dem/SNP coalition and also the first under new ways of working introduced by the SNP Scottish Government. Both are the result of the May 2007 elections.
Spokes points out that the Lib Dem manifesto “promised to make Edinburgh a Model Cycle-Friendly City. Exactly what this meant was not specified, but it surely implies major initiatives rather than just carrying on with pre-existing policies and budgets.”Unfortunately the Council is now involved in varies budget ‘crises’ – particular involving the Children and Families Department and the potential closure of schools. Whether this is the fault of the previous Labour administration or the current one is, not surprisingly, the subject of constant petty party bickering.
In addition the Scottish Government is doing some things differently, including reducing the amount of money specifically ‘ring fenced’. The idea is that Local Authorities have more autonomy about spending decisions. One downside (in Edinburgh) is the uncertainty about the future of the three School Travel Co-ordinators’ posts.
A few months ago unemployment seemed certain. Now it appears that council officials have realised that encouraging people to walk and cycle to school is a good idea, and councillors are being asked to approve the spending at their February 21st meeting.As Spokes points out in its letter: “We understand that the STCs are already starting to achieve modal shift on school journeys – the time of maximum congestion – quite apart from the child-health and obesity side, and we urge that they are retained.”
Spokes has had thirty years of significant success in persuading councils and Governments to take cycling seriously. Most of work has been done by a handful of people (notably Dave du Feu who wrote the latest letter). Unlike (for instance) the London Cycle Campaign, it has managed this without ever having any staff. It has never tried to become a ‘mass membership’ organisation, preferring to have ‘about 1000’ members – many of whom also write letters (and e-mails) to elected politicians and officials.
However things are changing, more people are cycling, health and Climate Change are firmly on Government agendas. In spite of all this, cycling, and the promotion and encouragement of it, is still getting a raw deal. The present council administration in Edinburgh seems even less ‘cycle friendly‘ than the previous one.
At Scottish level there is some evidence that some politicians regard cycling as a ‘leisure activity’.Many politicians seem to think there is a need to ‘balance’ the demands of the ‘cycling lobby’ and the ‘motoring lobby’ – though few cyclists would complain if there was spending on cycle infrastructure that ‘balanced’ the money that will be provided for a new Forth crossing!
Perhaps it’s time for Spokes to consider trying to sign up many new members and employ people – they could never replace all the volunteer activity. Sadly the current state of its web site is diluting some of the organisation’s impact. Some Government officials no longer rely on it as a source of information or credible indication of the strength of cycle campaigning.