All posts by Jon Riding

Who will you be voting for?

It’s election time (again). 3 out of every 4 years Portsmouth holds local elections and so, 3 out of 4 years we hold a hustings event to find out what each of the parties plans to do to tackle safety for people on bikes in our City.

This year we teamed up with Portsmouth Friends of the Earth to broaden our challenge to candidates; asking not only “what will they do for cycling” but, knowing that our City is breaching air pollution levels, what will they do to improve air quality? For us, these two go hand in hand – but what did the candidates think?

Just to set the scene, let’s remember that of over 205,000 residents;  one third travel car-free, the level of cycling is much higher than the national average, everywhere in the City is within a 6 mile (or 30-45 minute) cycle and short commuter distances compared with the rest of the South East: 62% are under 5km. There are five train stations, three ferries, a hovercraft, and two bus companies, and 126,500 cars and one of the worst levels of air pollution in the country.

Representatives from the Lib Dems, Labour, UKIP, Conservatives and Greens were in attendance, along with a newcomer from the National Health Action Party. Each had 15 minutes to set out what they would do to answer our call. And, with a few exceptions, the answers were surprisingly similar.

Most of the candidates recognised the “Climate Emergency” motion recently declared at Cabinetpledging to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, but it is clear that if we stick with the status quo, the target will be missed. Portsmouth politics is on a knife edge, with relatively few votes deciding the leading party of the day. These discourages the bold politics that is needed to achieve this goal and clean up our air and our streets. They won’t get there quickly enough if they don’t pull together.

There are two examples of where more collaborative working across parties has led to some promising results. Compared to a few years ago, there now seems to be cross party agreement that there are too many cars in the City. This might sound glaringly obvious, but it’s taken a long time to get to this point. Cllr Lynne Stagg (the current Traffic and Transportation post holder) echoed the ex Mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa (renowned for introducing bus rapid transit and bike lanes in his City) in stating that no one has a right to a parking space. She also flagged a news article from the 1960s crying out that something must be done about the traffic. At that point there were 10,000 cars in the city. Now there are 126,500. All of the parties agreed that residents parking zones, in some form or another, should be used to limit and reduce parking levels, from a roll out of the existing scheme at one end of the scale, to whole car-free zones at the other. However, be afraid of proposals for using private car parks to supplement on street parking overnight – the only thing holding back even higher car use levels is surely the limited supply of parking spaces!

The parties also agreed that low emission vehicles (battery or hydrogen) were part of the solution. Some relied on them more than others, with the Green Party in particular recognising that air pollution from cars isn’t only tailpipe fumes but brake dust which might actually be worse with heavier electric vehicles. The Conservatives started on-street electric vehicle charging and the current incumbents have continued the roll-out.

To make the changes that are needed, long term planning (at least 20 years) is necessary. And with our short electoral cycles, cross party agreement on the means of getting there is essential. Without it, anyone bold enough to raise their head above the parapet with the types of policies that are needed could get voted out, and we’ll be back to square one. And let’s be clear, these policies focus on massively reducing our dependency on cars for all but essential use.

So, what other ideas did the parties have?

On buses, several parties discussed cleaner technology, including a solar bus station at Tipner (Lib Dems); subsidised services (against years of cuts), addressing pricing, and public ownership of bus services.

On electric charging, most parties said they would continue with on-street charging to encourage uptake of private electric vehicles.

On infrastructure, there was far too little mentioned. Some of the parties recognised our “A City to Share” document and spoke of the need for segregated cycle facilities and the benefits of bike hire schemes.

The Greens went the furthest, saying that they’d use the planning system fix the “mess”, bring in a tax on workplace parking and secure cycle storage and scrap the City Centre Road which in its current state would make cycling in and out of the city worse than it already is; and encourage even more people to drive into the city.

The Lib Dems said they’d grow Park and Ride and continue to look for a new location to serve the east of the City. But there was no mention of the mass overhaul in walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure that would be needed to help us kick the car habit in the timescale that’s required. Cllr Stagg also spoke about the recent “cough cough, engine off” publicity campaign and pester power as a means of encouraging better driver behaviour – but there is limited evidence that such schemes make an impact.

Labour said they’d reduce traffic coming into the city and make park and ride use compulsory on match days. The Conservatives echoed proposals for segregated cycle facilities and said they’d deliver the infrastructure to give people choice – and this is the rub – if people can choose to use their cars at a lower cost to themselves than taking public transport, or more conveniently compared to walking or cycling – why would they switch? The car “choice” has to be made less attractive. As Veronica Wagner from the National Health Action Party stated – we should be planning for people not cars.

Overall, all of the parties had some good suggestions, many of which overlapped, and many of which would be controversial to car dependant voters who currently have little option for travelling more sustainably due to limited public transport services and scary cycle facilities. What’s needed is a major investment; bigger, longer term plans, and crucially, cross party working, without it, it’s clear that more people will suffer ill health as a result of poor air quality, and we will not meet the Climate Emergency deadline of 2030, never mind the DEFRA air quality compliance deadline of 2021. So – a call to action. We’ve worked with all the parties in power over at least the last ten years, can they commit to cross party working for at least the next ten years? Can they agree to state openly that this City cannot take any more cars, and must provide better infrastructure for other modes? Can they do what is needed to give us our City to Share?


2011 Census (via nomisweb, Office for National Statistics)


A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”   Gustavo Petro, former Mayor of Bogotá, Columbia


February Open Meeting

Our next meeting is Thursday 21 February at 7.00pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth.  Please arrive for 6.45 pm so we can start on time.

Our guest speaker for this meeting will be Dr Jason Horsley, Joint Director of Public Health for Southamton and Portsmouth

Peter Walker was our guest on the 20th September

https _cdn.evbuc.com_images_48019320_67378900689_1_originalWe’re delighted to announce that our guest speaker at our Open Meeting on the 20th September is Peter Walker. His book Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save the World takes us on a journey around the world, exploring the varying attitudes to cycling on our highways.

Visit the shining examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where cycling culture is an intrinsic part of the approach of politicians and officials. How have these cities made provision for cyclists and what are the extraordinary benefits?

And then take to the less welcoming roads of Britain, USA and Australia, where cycling can still be a terrifying experience. What are the tragic mistakes being made when planning and developing cities, and how do these mistakes lead to aggression towards the cycling community?

Peter is Political Correspondent for the Guardian. In 2009 he set up the Guardian Bike Blog which has published dozens of writers and has quickly become a primary destination for cycling debate. In 2014 he was named by BikeBizmagazine as one of the 50 most influential people in UK cycling, and in 2016 he was shortlisted in the Specialist Writer category at the Cycling Media Awards.

Greater Manchester Walking and Cycling Commissioner and former professional cyclist Chris Boardman says “Peter Walker has written the book I wanted to write”

We expect this event to be popular, so make sure you put your name down ASAP!

And you may want to buy Peter’s book before the event!

The Open Meeting is on the 20th September at the Richmond Building, University of Portsmouth starting at 7pm

Please get you tickets here.

June Open Meeting

Our next open meeting will be on the Thursday 15 June.

Highways police officers will tell us about their recent Close Pass operation – see below.  And we’ll hear from PCC on the quieter bike routes which are being rolled out around the city.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 15 June at 7.00pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth.  Please arrive from 6.45pm, so we can start on time.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum AGM

On the 16th March we will be holding our AGM. This meeting is only open to members, however you may join or renew on the door. The cost is a bargain £10 for the whole year. You can also join on the website here.

Once the business of officers reports and electing the new committee is over, we are intending to use the local knowledge of the members present  to create a new ‘tube map’ of Portsea’s cycle infrastructure. For background reading on ‘tube maps’ please see this article on the Cycling UK website.

Once complete, we intend to present this to Portsmouth City Council to give them some ideas on prioritising updates to the network.

One of the key purposes of the AGM is to elect a committee to govern the cycle forum’s activities. We’d love to see some new faces on our committee this year to energise our campaigning.

The following committee posts will be up for election – you can put yourself forward for one of them either by letting us know in advance by email (you can reply to this one) or by coming along and volunteering on the night.

  • Chair – the chair provides leadership to ensure the committee functions effectively.
  • Vice Chair – the vice chair supports the chair, and is an ideal role for an aspiring chair!
  • Hon Secretary – the honorary secretary is responsible for the smooth running of the forum – making sure that meetings are planned and delivered effectively. This is not an admin job – it’s about making sure the forum’s operations keep running smoothly.
  • Treasurer – keeps us solvent.
  • Membership Secretary – recruiting and keeping track of members.
  • Communications Manager – managing our communications our members and supporters via email, web, social media and media.
  • Rides and Events Manager – manage our programme of rides and our attendance at events / fayre’s and so on.
  • Committee member (up to 6) – an ‘ordinary’ (although no-one’s ordinary) member of our committee, helping to decide how the forum runs and taking a share of the actions to deliver its business.

As well as the standard business of the AGM we discuss how the cycle forum is run and the focus of our campaigns. This is YOUR chance to have a say in how the forum is run.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 16th March at 7.00pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth.

Open Meeting – The Cycling Revolution in Leicester

We have a guest speaker from Leicester at our next open meeting on Thursday 26th January.

Jan from British Cycling will be telling us about the work they have been doing to transform the city for cycling. As the UK’s first Environment City, Leicester’s city council has plans to quadruple cycling levels by 2024.  This is being done by a number of programmes, including spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on new infrastructure.

GV of the new bike path / cycle route on Newarke Street in Leicester city centre PICTURE WILL JOHNSTON
GV of the new bike path / cycle route on Newarke Street in Leicester city centre

So could this be the reason behind Leicester City’s recent successes?!

The meeting will take place on Thursday 26 January at 7.00pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth.

Open Meeting – Thursday 22nd September

We have an open meeting on Thursday. We’ll be discussing the new Solent Deal to devolve transport and other powers from central government to a new Solent Authority. It’ll have money to spend and we want to make sure some it goes into cycling! We’ll also be talking about our Pompey Pothole project to record poor roads and updating you on what has happens since our last meeting. The meeting is at the university Richmond building off Queen St, starting 7pm.