Election week: Which party is best for mountain biking?

It’s the UK’s General Election this week … Not something that you’d typically associate with mountain biking.

We’ve asked our political pundit Paddy Tully the question “which party claims to be best for mountain biking in the UK?”

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So lets take a brief walk through the party manifestos and see who is offering what to support mountain biking in the UK…

I think we can all agree that the most important question relating to the upcoming general election isn’t which party will lead the UK out of the deficit and into economic prosperity, but it is which party will keep the UK at the forefront of international mountain biking.

Now, a lot has been written about which party is best for cycling, but let’s be honest as important cycling as a mode of transport is, shredding brown pow is much closer to our hearts.

So lets take a brief walk through the party manifestos and see who is offering what to support mountain biking in the UK.

Err…

… Well. Sorry. None of the party manifestos mention mountain biking specifically.

So lets try the next best thing. Let’s see how provisions for cycling in general might translate along with some other areas that might be of interest.

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“What do each of the parties offer for mountain biking?”

Conservatives

  • Double the number of cycle journeys in the next parliament through a £200m investment.
  • Support countryside pursuits, specifically protecting hunting, shooting and fishing [What about mountain biking eh Dave?].
  • Ensure that public forests are kept in trust for the nation [not necessarily the same as keeping them in public ownership].
  • Improve community sports facilities in partnership with local authorities, the Football Association and the Premier League [no mention of British Cycling].

It’s not a bad start… But it’s not brilliant. I give them a 5 out of 10.

Green Party

  • Reduce car journeys and switch as many as possible to walking, cycling and public transport.
  • Spend £30 per head per year on walking and cycling schemes [most likely on utility uses though.
  • Protect, expand, properly fund and improve non-car access to our National Parks [this could help mountain bikers in using public transport to get to sick zones].
  • Make good the Coalition’s unfulfilled promise to protect forests through a Forests Protection Bill [a more concrete approach to forests].
  • Support initiatives to make the arts and sports accessible to all [no details of how though].

Pretty good. The Greens are probably the most in-favour of spending money on cycling and seem to say a lot about forests. 8 out of 10.

Labour

  • Pledge to support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling [no numbers there though].
  • Believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to nature [strong belief, but no details of measures to support this].
  • Keep forests in public ownership [nice and clear].
  • Make green spaces an important part of “our thriving tourism industry’.

Not bad, but lacks of bit of substance. There’s access to nature and clear support for public ownership of forests. 7 out of 10.

Liberal Democrats

  • New incentives for local schemes that cut transport-related pollution, and encourage walking and cycling.
  • Implement the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report, including steps to deliver a £10 a head annual public expenditure on cycling within existing budgets [good to see someone taking note of the recent nationwide report].
  • Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space.
  • Place the management of public forests on a sustainable footing, in line with the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Forestry, and plant at least an additional tree for every child born – about 750,000 every year – as part of a major afforestation plan [more forests hopefully mean more places to ride, although secure footing may not necessarily mean public ownership].

Another good one. Lots of investment in forests, pro-cycling and support access to green space. 8 out of 10. 

Plaid Cymru

  • Create more sustainable infrastructure with a particular focus on better housing, public transport, leisure and education facilities, developing urban green areas and cycle routes. [although no concrete measures].
  • They will look into attracting the Tour de France to Wales, for both women and men [laudable as it is that they want to host the women’s TdF, they’ll need to lobby hard to make it even exist first]

A bit lacking sorry Wales, especially given how much mountain biking there is Cymru. 4 out of 10.

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SNP

  • No mention of cycling at all [very surprising for what is sold as the most left wing party in parliament].
  • We have taken steps to reduce consumption of alcohol and tobacco and to promote a more active lifestyle through sport [this is in relation to measures already in place in Scotland].

No cycling mentioned at all. Again, a shame given how strong mountain biking is in Scotland. 3 out of 10.

UKIP

  • No mention of cycling at all [no real surprise given their key demographic].
  • Support better countryside access, providing grants towards rural capital projects that enhance the rural environment, encourage rural education or help recovery from environmental disasters [could potentially promote off road cycling].
  • Abolish government departments when their essential powers and functions can be merged into other departments. Such departments will include the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department for International Development, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport [not looking good for support of elite sports then].

Not great. No cycling but potentially support for improving access to the country. Nothing very specific to work with in terms of sport and mountain biking though. 3 out of 10.

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“the general wooliness of them all”

I think the main thing that surprised me from reviewing all the manifestos, is how little they actually say, how minor the commitments are, and the general wooliness of them all when it comes to cycling (and pretty much anything else).

I’m aware that it’s a minority interest but if you look at the stats it’s a growing area, both for leisure and utility. With respect to mountain biking maybe it’s not surprising that no manifesto mentions it specifically, but then there’s very little on sport in general other than the conservatives offering to build some more football pitches and UKIP abolishing the Department for Culture, Media and Sport!

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the most important thing is…”

After direct financial support I would consider that land access is the next most important aspect of UK mtb-ing. The three largest England based parties (and the Greens) all make specific (although different) assurances regarding national forest ownership/access, however it’s disappointing that neither the Welsh nor Scottish nationalist parties suggest similar measures especially given the excellent Forestry Commission trail centres in both nations.

Similarly neither Plaid Cymru nor the SNP give mention to countryside access (not even the lip service paid by other parties) given the top-drawer mountain biking venues and general countryside in both Wales and Scotland.

Maybe looking at cycling provision specifically isn’t that important though – there are a whole host of other things, to name but a few, that enable us to go cycling:

  • Roads/trains to get us to the trails;
  • Hospitals to fix us when it goes wrong;
  • Jobs to fund our adventures; or
  • Houses to keep our bikes in.

I could go on, but the I think the most important thing is to vote for whoever you think will enable you to enjoy your riding the most.

See you down the polling station on 7th May!


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