Get Britain Cycling – Get Your MP Involved

As you might expect, the folks at The Times can write better than me, so I will use their words:

A landmark debate on cycling will take place in the House of Commons on Monday, September 2, when MPs will debate the findings of the Get Britain Cycling report. This calls on the Government to increase investment in cycling across the UK.

This debate only came about because almost 70,000 people, perhaps including you, signed our vital e-petition. Thank you so much for doing so.

Now we are requesting that you to write to your MP and implore him or her to attend the debate on your behalf. You can do so on our campaign page here.

The result of your actions would not only improve safety for the 750,000 cyclists who already commute to work by bike in Britain, but would also have a significant impact in reducing traffic jams for motorists, easing overcrowding on public transport and saving millions from local health budgets.

When we last asked you to contact your MP in February 2012, more than 4,000 of you did so, which resulted in 77 MPs attending a debate on cycling in Westminster Hall. Many said they attended because they had been contacted by their constituents.

Almost 18 months later, we would urge you to do the same.

This is my letter to Jim Dowd MP, representative for West Lewisham and Penge:

Dear Jim Dowd,

I am writing regarding the Get Britain Cycling debate being held in the House of Commons on Monday 2 September.

I am a resident within your constituency and I can tell you that cycling here, as in much of the rest of the country, is often an unpleasant experience. The streets are poorly designed, traffic-choked and in many cases, simply unsafe.

That said, I love cycling. On a Saturday morning I love nothing more than putting my daughter on the back of my bike and flitting between Forest Hill and Sydenham for a spot of shopping. It occurs to me that this area, with its fine collection of High Streets a 5-10 minute ride from each other, is made for cycling, if only someone could make the road environment feel safe and inviting for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

My daughter, now three-years old, is still small enough to ride on a child seat on the back of my bike. It may seem strange, but I do not look forward to the day she is too big for the child seat and has a bike of her own – in the current situation I do not feel I could let her ride a bike on the streets where we live. Conditions are such that one small mistake may cost her life, and children on bikes do make mistakes. The most vulnerable people on our roads need protection. The recommendations put forward in the Get Britain Cycling report need to be implemented in order to achieve the step changes required to make our streets feel safe an inviting to all.

I am proud to live in West Lewisham and Penge. Despite the ongoing economic uncertainty there is an air of optimism on the High Streets of Forest Hill and Sydenham. I am sure you will agree that every effort should be made to secure their economic future. Cycling can be a key part of this. Research consistently shows that people on bikes and on foot spend more in local shops than people in cars. Initiatives that would see more traffic, congestion, pollution and noise on our High Streets, such as Eric Pickles fallacy of encouraging more parking on our High Streets, should be rejected as they will simply ruin the qualities that make the High Streets attractive places to shop.

As I have already mentioned, I also think the particular geography of the area is well suited to cycling. While you might not reasonably take in shopping in Forest Hill, Sydenham and Kirkdale on foot in a single trip (and doing so in a car would be unpleasant), they are within easy reach of each other by bike. Each High Street has a great offering that does not necessarily overlap with the others – adding the three together results in an offering that in my view is more than the sum of the parts.

Finally, I understand that health is a particular area of interest to you. Getting more people on bikes has obvious public health benefits, and would also save millions from local NHS budgets. At a time when the NHS is under threat, there could not be a better time to get more people on bikes.

I would be grateful of you could confirm to me that you will be in attendance at the Get Britain Cycling debate and that you will fully support the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report.

 Yours sincerely…

If I get a response, I will post it to this blog.

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