Leading article: Two wheels good

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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson's cycling credentials may outstrip those of the man he is trying to replace as London mayor, but Ken Livingstone has put a stick between his rival's spokes by announcing a £500m investment in cycling in the capital.

This will apparently be spent on a massive network of "cycle super highways" to cut across London and a "hire-and-ride" bike scheme (based on the extraordinarily successful Paris "Velib" example). It all sounds excellent. But one cannot help wondering why only London should benefit from such lavish investment.

The Government periodically makes supporting noises towards cycling, but very little funding has materialised to encourage it as a method of transport. We remain decades behind countries such as the Netherlands and Finland when it comes to the provision of cycling routes. And the amounts spent by the Government on facilitating cars far outstrip the sums set aside for those on two wheels.

Considering the environmental and health benefits the nation would reap if people got out of their cars and on to their bikes, this is inexcusable. The scope for such a switch should not be underestimated. Almost a quarter of car journeys are less than two miles, a distance that can be cycled in less than 15 minutes.

There is growing demand for cycling too. The bid of the charity Sustrans, to restore cycle routes around the country, won a vote in a competition to distribute £50m of lottery money. Cycling is on the move. But ministers seem trapped in a mind-set in which cars come first. The moment has come for them to give way.