Guardian Bike Blog has an item on manifesto pledges for cycling, based on a current CTC campaign. Both propose a number of ideas, and the Guardian invites further suggestions.
It's all good stuff that it's hard not to support - like better facilities, higher safety levels, and more commitment to cycling.
So I went off to see what the different parties are currently saying. As far as I can make out all of the major parties are in favour of cycling in principle, all want to see more of it (for the usual reasons) but all believe that it is fundamentally a local issue.
Labour don't seem to have a lot to say, but I suppose we can see their policy in practice. On face value the Liberal Democrats seem to have the most concrete proposals, but it's hard to see how they differ significantly from current practice. The Conservatives are trying to give the impression that they will transfer £200m from Congestion charging to walking and Cycling schemes - but they rather spoil the story by claiming that there has been a 15% decline in cycling since 1996 (based on number of trips in the 2007 DfT statistics), when the most recent figures show a 22% increase in cycling (based on distance travelled in the 2008 statistics). At least they got the decimal point in the right place - it's just the sign they got wrong this time.
The CTC campaign and Guardian blog are just a small sample out of a number of different election shopping lists that have crossed my path in recent weeks. Each is making a plausible case for a particular interest group that I could claim some allegiance to. It's all healthy campaigning activity by pressure groups, I suppose. But if I add all the ideas together what it amounts to is a combination of higher spending and lower taxes. To misquote Arthur C. Clarke, "any sufficiently advanced manifesto pledge seems indistinguishable from magic".
All this is generating some interesting discussion, but I can't help feeling that the principle is fundamentally flawed. I'm not at all sure that I want to vote for a party that makes promises to lots of different special interest groups - even when I am part of them. After all it's our money that they are promising to use to buy our votes. Perhaps I'm being perverse, but I'm not even sure that I want to live in the kind of society that puts the interests of people like me at the top of its priority list. But I suppose that if the majority of voters want to be presented with a bunch of shopping lists for special interest groups, then that is what democracy has to deliver.