Wednesday, 28 May 2014

This Land is our land for cycling

Many cyclists in the South East will remember a month or so ago that a group of residents in the New Forest started accusing riders of all manner of things (mostly being middle aged and wearing Lycra) and started a campaign to get a Wiggle Sportive curtailed. We have also heard various complaints from Surrey residents about closed road events and their view that their neighbourhoods are being treated as a race track. Even having the tour coming through seems to be cause for unhappiness to some.  While as a cyclist it is pretty clear which side of the fence I am on some recent debate about the housing shortage rather hardened my view.

A number of commentators have suggested that the London housing shortage is in part the result of the greenbelt. Land for housing is at a premium because planning rules that protect the greenbelt ensures a shortage of supply. This means that we all pay higher prices for housing because of it.  Now, I am not about to suggest I want the Surrey Hills or the Ashdown Forest turned into a new town but there is an interesting point at stake here. We, the masses of city dwellers are paying a premium for housing in part because there is a consensus that a greenbelt is a good thing. The implication is that the greenbelt does not only 'belong' to those who  have the good fortune to live there, but to mangle the words of Leon Rosselson, 'to be a common treasury for all.' The roads, the paths and the hills exist in their wonderful greenness because we want to retain this playground for walking, riding, cycling, or simply for the sake of the environment. But it is a gift we all pay for in sky high prices for our cramped urban homes. For those fortunate enough to be able to live in this place, accepting a few closed roads and making a few allowances seems a small price in exchange.