Friday, 14 September 2012

Why Patrick McLoughlin could be good for Cyclists

There has naturally been a lot of comment over Patrick McLoughlin taking over the transport brief, particularly as the shunting of Justine Greening to one side suggests that a U-turn over Heathrow is imminent. There is also going to be a lot of speculation over how HS2 and other big rail issues will be dealt with.

What about cycling? There have already been widely circulated comments about McLoughlin only making two references to cycling in 20 years as MP. How many would one expect him to make before stepping up to the transport supremo portfolio?

Although there is little to suggest McLoughlin has any particular personal interest in cycling, there is one area in which we might be able to make some headway.

His Derbyshire Dales constituency includes the town of Ashbourne, which is the start of the Tissington Trail. Together with the High Peak Trail, these two routes form their own "Y-network" superhighway across the Peak District, covering some of the most impressive scenery anywhere in England. As far as traffic free leisure paths go, these are amongst the best we have to offer.

The first request to Mr McLoughlin has to be for him to get on his bike on his own patch and appreciate just how good these routes are. Then he will hear the cries of "more please" - especially as we still have numerous dis-used railways which could be upgraded for cycling, together with other corridors such as canals, bridleways and urban parks. After this will come demands for better segregated cycling routes that run along existing streets, together with on-road cycle lanes where they are the most practical option, and more widespread usage of 20mph zones to cover residential areas where the roads need to be shared amongst all users.

There is little indication so far that Mr McLoughlin has any desire to take cycling particularly seriously, although this of course can only change if enough of us ask him to, and this can start in his own backyard.

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