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ON YER BIKE: Forward-thinking Tory will help all on the road
In my twenties I was a hot-under-the-collar leftie and would never in a million years have imagined celebrating a Conservative politician’s success.
My generation’s first experiences of Tories was terribly negative – in the heady punk era of the early eighties, Maggie “Milk Snatcher” Thatcher and her party were reviled by millions of young people.
But what can I say? Either I am ageing and keeling to the right, or the Tories are actually getting better. I am not thinking of that Cycling buffoon Boris Johnson, but closer to home: Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the new leader of the Conservative group on the county council.
Few in Oxfordshire will be able to forget Keith Mitchell, who led the county’s Conservatives for so many years. He seemed to revel in upsetting anyone who didn’t subscribe to his 1950’s-throwback mindset. He held cyclists in especially low regard and took great pleasure in telling me this on the few occasions our paths crossed.
His antediluvian attitudes seemed diametrically opposed to those of the younger Oxfordshire Tories. One such Tory stood out from Keith’s crowd: Ian Hudspeth, one of those rare politicians who sees beyond the tribal boundaries.
In his role as cabinet member for transport, he didn’t only seek to serve the interests of his Woodstock constituents and other rural Tory seats.
Their interests were served, don’t get me wrong: he oversaw the installation of the Green Road roundabout in Headington, expediting car journeys around the east of the city. But the role meant satisfying the transport needs of all of us.
It is in all our interests to promote cycling, because every person you manage to get on to a bike is no longer a car or bus passenger.
This makes sense financially – it is infinitely more expensive to put in infrastructure for cars and buses than for bicycles.
It also makes sense practically – people in the city want to cycle, and every bike means even more space and fewer queues for drivers. Not to mention the health and environmental savings. Cycling makes so much sense, and Ian really understood this.
Despite criticism from all angles, Ian stuck to his guns and sanctioned the city’s 20mph limits. This was obviously unpopular with the car lobby and I am sure his Tory colleagues were incensed about £300,000 being spent on 20mph zones in the city. But Ian had listened to the cyclists, the parents, the elderly, the shoppers and the strollers who all wanted a quieter, safer and more peaceful road system in the city.
Oxfordshire’s cyclists should take cheer from Ian Hudspeth’s ascent to leader of the Conservatives. Let’s hope that today’s full county council meeting now ratifies him as leader of the county council as well. He is such a breath of fresh air after the reactionary dinosaurs of the past decade – cyclists and drivers alike stand to gain in spades.
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