Fewer people are now cycling to work in the East Midlands than 10 years ago according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics. In 2001 the Region was ahead of the national trend with 3.3% of all workers taking to their bike. Figures from the 2011 census show that cycling to work has fallen below the national average of 2.8%. The figures show that 8% fewer people are using their bike to work even though cycling has greatly increased in popularity following Bradley Wigging heroics in the 2012 Tour de France.
‘These figures are a great disappointment to me,’ said Kat Boettge, lead European candidate fore the Greens in the East Midlands. ‘At weekends thousands of people enjoy cycling, but sadly when it comes to Monday morning the bike is packed away. One reason for this decline is the increase in urban traffic and as a result an increase in traffic fumes. We are now seeing a serious decline in air quality in urban areas that is having an impact on public health.’
Of the 40 Local Authorities in the East Midlands Region only 6 show an increase with Nottingham and Leicester leading the way with 14% and 12% respectively. 13 Authorities show declines of 20% or more, with Bolsover trailing the field with just 0.8% of workers cycling to work.
With City air quality declining, the Greens want to see the government adopt pro-cycling policies to reduce the level of traffic fumes. Government figures show that 29,000 avoidable deaths a year can be attributed to poor quality air, with the asthmatic, the very young and elderly the most vulnerable groups. ‘The Government is facing an action from the European Court for failing to take action to reduce urban pollution,’ Kat Boettge said. ‘This means taking action to reduce urban traffic, investment in affordable public transport and more encouragement for cycling and walking with dedicated cycleways and footpaths.’
The Greens want to see money switched from new roads and the High Speed Rail project HS2 to investment into public transport and cycling infrastructure to tackle the problems of air pollution and traffic congestion. They say that motor transport is a major source of carbon emissions that are driving climate change therefore changes are needed in transport policy to build a low carbon affordable transport system that meets people’s needs.