Jordan Redshaw: Our party needs a strong pro-cycling measures to rebuild in cities

26 May

Jordan Redshaw is on the Conservative Friends of Cycling’s Executive Committee.

It is not controversial to say that since the beginning of the pandemic there have been some things the Government has got right and some areas where it should have done better.

An often overlooked area in which this Government has achieved outstanding success is in its promotion of cycling. There simply have been no previous governments with such a bold vision. Their proposals are described in the “Gear Change” report: an ambitious plan to get Britain cycling that has been received very positively.

To back up these proposals, the Government has committed to spending £2 billion on cycling and walking over the course of a parliament. They have already published much needed higher standards for safer cycling infrastructure (LTN 1/20). They are helping people get back on their old bicycles with 500,000 repair vouchers worth £50 up for grabs and there are plans to introduce a modern day Cycling Proficiency scheme for people of all ages.

However despite strong actions to promote safe cycling, on the doorstep, the Conservative Party is still seen to have a weaker stance on cycling than its opponents. As a party there is a lot for us to gain by promoting cycling and therefore cementing our rightful position as the party helping people cycle more and with safety.

During the recent local election campaign, we saw many Labour led councils take credit for implementing safe cycling infrastructure using the government’s Active Travel Fund. This £250 million fund has allowed local authorities to bid for grants to improve cycling infrastructure in the midst of the pandemic. This was a missed opportunity for many Conservative-led councils who have not taken advantage of the Active Travel Fund and delivered safe cycling infrastructure to their voters.

We need to trust the Government in its promotion of cycling – after all Boris has a successful record here having implemented the gold-standard of segregated cycle lanes, the “Cycle Superhighways” as Mayor of London. London’s cycle hire scheme is still popularly known as the “Boris bike” scheme by Londoners and tourists alike.

The Prime Minister’s strong cycling credentials helped him win a second term in a city usually dominated by Labour. Shaun Bailey was generally perceived to have poor intentions for cycling and ended up finishing ten per cent behind Sadiq Khan in the final round. It is not good enough for Conservatives to give up on London, when we know we can win in London with a positive, pro-cycling manifesto.

After all, we recently saw Andy Street and Ben Houchen achieve similar success with pro-cycling policies. Street wrote here at ConservativeHome about his ambitions to build 500 miles of cycle lanes in the West Midlands, and Houchen invested £18 million for active travel improvements in the Tees Valley. Conservative councillors across the country could learn a lot from this and achieve similar success by also delivering high-quality cycle infrastructure.

A core right-wing value is giving people the liberty to make their own choices in life. Right now the vast majority of road space is monopolised by one mode of transport – cars. We must ensure everyone has the option of a cheap, safe and efficient alternative method of travel. It is a wonderful thing that anyone can get set up with a bicycle for less than £200 and in many urban areas it is the quickest and most reliable way to get from A to B.

Let us not forget that many cyclists also own cars. The AA recently found a third of drivers have said they will cycle, walk or run more after lockdown. Many of these people won’t cycle for political reasons or even for the environment, they simply want the choice to get around cheaply, safely and quickly.

It is vital that communities are properly consulted when introducing safe cycling infrastructure and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). All too often last year, Labour councils introduced temporary cycle lanes and LTNs overnight with minimal or no consultation. There has to be decent consultation with local residents to ensure schemes are implemented in the best possible way by considering everyone’s needs.

However, we must not fall into the trap of listening to the loudest voices in our party – or perpetuated myths on Twitter – as reasons for scrapping or never implementing these schemes. Imperial College London found no evidence that cycle superhighways worsened traffic congestion in London. In Kensington and Chelsea, independent polling found just 30 per cent of those surveyed were against the Kensington High Street cycle lane. This is not an isolated case as surveys have consistently found that the majority of residents support LTNs too – perhaps unsurprisingly, as who wouldn’t favour traffic moving from residential streets to main roads?

Polling in March this year shows just 16 per centof people oppose LTNs, whereas 47 per cent support them in London. Supporting cycle schemes is a vote-winning policy and for Conservatives to remain relevant in cities and amongst future generations we must embrace many Briton’s desires to cycle safely.

 

During the pandemic one of the reasons we fared badly, as a country, is because of our obesity crisis. According to the OECD, 63 per cent of UK adults are overweight, meaning the UK is the most overweight country in western Europe. The costs of physical inactivity to the UK are estimated to be in excess of £7 billion every year.

There are clear economic benefits both for individuals and wider society in improving the nation’s health. Regular cycling can reduce the risk of dementia, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions by at least 30 per cent. Cycling England’s Qualitative Survey on Cycling found in their Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) analysis, for each £1 invested in cycling the value of decreased mortality was £2.59.

This is only taking into account the benefits of reduced mortality, the overall BCR ratio of cycling investment is much higher at 13:1. Whereas motorways often only have BCR’s of 3:1.

Other economic benefits should not be underestimated. Cyclists visit local shops, restaurants and cafes more than users of other modes of transport spending up to 40 per cent more than drivers according to TfL. This higher footfall will help our high streets at a crucial time.

Supporting safe cycling is only going to become more important as we work towards carbon net zero by 2050 – it is not a fad that is going to disappear after the pandemic passes. If we continue to build on the Government’s success at a local level we can ensure this is a golden era for cycling. As a country we will reap huge economic, environmental and health benefits, and as a result the party we will reap the rewards at the ballot box

Ian Howells: Hybrids are the key to delivering the Government’s climate transport goals in the UK

13 Oct

Ian Howells is Honda Europe’s Senior Vice President. This is a sponsored post by Honda.

Honda has committed to achieving carbon neutrality globally by 2050, and we fully support the UK Government’s decarbonisation targets. In fact, throughout Europe, we have an ambitious target for 100 per cent of car sales to feature electrified powertrains (EV, plug-in hybrid, advanced hybrid) by 2022.

But, with our global experience and engineering expertise we know that delivering an affordable, decarbonised future cannot rely on just one technology.

A multi-pathway approach is required, in which a broad range of technologies are used to deliver CO2 reductions quickly and effectively, while ensuring that personal mobility remains affordable and accessible to all. This is vital to the Government’s levelling up agenda and underpinning the fundamental principle of personal choice.

Honda’s approach would see battery electric, advanced hybrid and – in time – hydrogen and decarbonised liquid fuels deployed to provide customers with the right vehicle, for the right use, at the right price.

For Honda, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will play a key role in our proposed approach. BEVs provide a significant number of benefits to consumers, enabling zero emissions driving over short distances and within urban environments.

But BEVs are not a silver bullet. Challenges around affordability, infrastructure and technology limitations mean that the Government cannot rely solely on electric vehicles to completely replace internal combustion engines by 2035, if it does not also intend to restrict consumer choice.

An approach that relies only on expensive electric cars risks turning driving into a privilege only afforded to the wealthy, while pricing those who most need it out of personal mobility.

While prices are coming down, BEVs remain expensive in comparison to advanced hybrid and conventional cars. The UK’s own Advanced Propulsion Centre projects that cost parity between electric and petrol cars will not be reached by 2035 – and will take much longer for larger family cars or popular SUVs. The simple truth is that not everyone will be able to afford an electric car and outlawing advanced hybrid alternatives will price people out of essential mobility for work, school, caring and socialising.

Pursuing a battery electric only strategy will create a new inequality between those who have easy access to charging – and those in the Midlands and the North who do not.

Despite welcome additional investments from Government, the UK’s charging infrastructure is far from ready for a full transition to electric vehicles within 15 years. Public charging is unevenly spread across the country, with London, the South East and Scotland seeing the highest levels of public charging infrastructure, with the Midlands and the North much worse served. Wealthier drivers in the suburbs may be able to install off-street charging at home, but people with no access to off-street parking, such as those in tower blocks or dense urban areas, will struggle to find accessible and convenient ways to charge their car.

Current battery technology is nearing the limits of performance – and resource scarcity means there are not enough raw materials for a full shift to battery electric cars.

The current lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars today are reaching the limits of power and performance. These limits mean that EVs cannot be used to replace ICE vehicles in all cases. Whether towing caravans on the family holiday, pulling tradesperson’s equipment, or powering a sports car – battery electric cannot yet deliver the needed performance on its own.

Performance and power cannot simply be increased by installing bigger batteries, as these vehicles would incur weight and cost penalties. Furthermore, there are limits on global cobalt supply, with the European Commission estimating that by 2030, even with recycling, demand will far outstrip supply.

Honda’s advanced hybrid technology is at the heart of a multi-pathway approach that delivers significant emissions reductions, keeps mobility affordable and accessible – and still has scope for significant improvements. Signalling an end to this technology would be counter-productive.

Hybrid technology is far more affordable to a wide variety of consumers. Our new Jazz Hybrid starts from £19,000, which is much cheaper than a similarly sized BEV from other manufacturers – even when government support is taken into account. The price difference is much starker when looking at larger family-sized vehicles or the ever popular SUV category.

By combining compact, efficient, specially designed petrol engines with battery power, Honda’s advanced hybrid technology provides the power and performance that customers need to meet a wide range of needs, ensuring that customers feel confident in moving into low emissions mobility.

Our advanced hybrid products on the market now, are already making a contribution to CO2 reductions. Our new Jazz Hybrid emits 30 per cent less CO2 than its non-hybrid predecessor. In addition, there remains scope for significant ongoing emission reductions as advanced hybrid technology continues to evolve and move towards zero emission.

Decarbonised liquid fuels are an exciting way to further reduce transport emissions, alongside electrification.

The development of decarbonised liquid fuels – produced from renewable energy sources – have the potential to further reduce the CO2 performance of hybrid vehicles, and are a viable route to decarbonising the existing petrol and diesel fleet, again significantly bringing forward the reduction in carbon emissions.

As the Prime Minister said in his 2020 party conference speech – at some point the State must stand aside, and let the private sector take the lead. The role of Government is to set consistent and realistic targets and provide support, but it must let businesses innovate and invest, while enabling consumers to choose the technology that fits their needs.

The challenge of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 is huge. Honda has also embarked on that journey and will dedicate all its global resources to meeting this vital goal. The UK will be at the forefront as we deploy our technologies, and we support the Government’s ambitions of zero emissions mobility. But our global experience and engineering know-how make it clear that we can’t rely on one technology alone – a multi-pathway approach is required.

As ministers finalise their plans for mobility in a net-zero future, they must ensure that mobility remains accessible and affordable for all. They can achieve this by recognising the important role played by advanced hybrids and ensure these can remain part of the technology mix over the long term, as part of a multi pathway approach to our shared goal of clean, accessible and affordable personal mobility.

To find out more about Honda’s advanced hybrid technology, visit our UK website here.