Monday, 17 November 2014

Film Review BICYCLE and thoughts on money for cycling infrastructure

The Ride

A bunch of us cycled from Corsham to Bradford-on-Avon last Saturday night to see the film Bicycle which was being shown as part of the Bath film festival. The ride was great with no rain and plenty of lights to illuminate our way.  We had an early evening meal in the Lock Inn which was very appropriate before trotting off to the newly refurbished St Margarets Hall to see the film. It was a good thing Edgar was there as none of us knew where the venue was situated.

The Film

On to the film which is a documentary on 3 aspects of cycling, the history including the technical development and social implications, the resurgence of cycling since the 1970s  that includes how the sporting success was achieved in the Olympics and Tour de France and where cycling goes from here in the UK.  The film was really well done being interspersed with short animations, brief portraits of ordinary cyclists, an in depth focus on the development of the Lotus Superbike (Chris Baordman) and the story of Dannielle Khan who won the sprint and 500m TT events at the Juniors world championships in 2013, as well as the silver medal in the Keirin.
The film contains some facts that I was not aware of

  1. It was Ernest Marples, Harold Macmillan’s minister of transport, a businessman who came from the roads construction industry who hired Dr Beeching to 'look at the Rail industry'.  His report closed 2363 stations (including Corsham) and scrapped a third of the track.  It also paved the way for more road, cars and the congestion mess that we are in today.
  2. The people who founded Sustrans UK (Cycle Bag) leased the recently decommissioned track between Bristol and Bath for £1 a year to build the first dedicated cycle track in the country.
  3. £70+ per head of population is spent on the roads each year in this country. Just £2 is spent on cycling.  The Dutch spend £20 a head and the Danes spend £30 a head on cycling provision.

The Question

The real question that the film poses is what happens to cycling here in the UK, does it continue to develop or does it get wiped by the weight of traffic.  The are scenes of cycling in Holland and Denmark which had the same levels of cycling as the UK in the 1970's however they made a conscience choice to invest and to continue to invest in cycling.  The Film asks for £10 per head of population to be spent in the UK year on Year.

After the film there was a question and answer session with reps from Aardman Animations, Sustrans and Moulton Bikes which was chaired by John of John's Bikes in Bath.  There was a point raised from a local councillor who said that Wiltshire council budgets will be reduced by £30M year on year and the cycling budget comes from the 'discretionary fund'  that can be spend on anything so its really important to hassle local councillors to spend the money on cycling infrastructure.

Car Park Tax

This got me thinking about imaginative ways of raising money for cycling infrastructure.  How about a car parking tax that would especially target large car parks which are ugly and only encourage large volumes of cars to clog up the streets?  Then I did some calculations:
  Lets assume that a parking space at for example Sainsburys is used 8 times a day for 300 days a year where each individual using that space spends about £30 which is £72,000 a year for that space.  The profit on that (7%) is about £5,000 a year.  How about imposing a tax of £1000 a year for each parking space above 100 spaces.  So for Sainsburys in Chippenham which has 580 standard parking spaces, 50 disabled and 20 parent and child spaces, lets be really generous and exclude the disabled and parent and child, leaving 480 spaces to be taxed giving £2.4 million a year.  Just think of all those big car parks in Wiltshire, big companies, supermarkets, big chain stores.  A cycling infrastructure in waiting.
The scheme would have other advantages:

  1. Wiltshire currently charge for the use of their car parks that are usually near to high street shops.  The Tax would help put local shops on a level playing field with the big supermarkets.
  2. It would not hit small and medium sized companies.
  3. It could be brought in gradually so that for the first year its applicable to car parks with more than 300 spaces. then reduce over time given companies time to adapt. 
  4. Its really a tax on space so a company like Sainsburys could elect to change the use of their current parking spaces and do something more imaginative with them, perhaps more community based.
  5. They could provide better bus services to bring people in or do more on-line.  One big van/bus driving around is better that 30+ cars.
  6. They could offer a store discount to those who do not come by car.
  7. They could charge for a parking space or put their prices up to compensate.
I would construct the legislation so that it did not matter who owned the car park.  If a reasonable person would judge that the parking space was for the use of adjacent company then the Tax would be payable.

Then I found this news item on Nottingham council that levied a tax on employee parking space.  This shows that it is possible but why not hit the big retail outlets and why put the threshold so low that it hits smaller companies?  Over to you...

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