Brompton Bicycle CEO Will Butler-Adams has called for the British government to invest money into cycling infrastructure for UK cities, in order to make them environmentally friendly, sustainable and safe "world-class cycle hubs".
Speaking in an interview last week with Steven Day – co-founder of 100 per cent renewable energy supplier Pure Planet – Butler-Adams said that the coronavirus crisis had served to give people a glimpse of how life with fewer cars in British cities might be experienced.
"Coronavirus gave us a taste of what cities could be like. We've been born in a zoo, we've been born in a cage; we’ve been born in this fug and expected that to be normal," Butler-Adams said, suggesting that cyclists' experiences of cities before the lockdown was one of restriction due to the priority given to cars and large vehicles.
"Now we've been let out and we've seen what these cities could be like, and we're saying, 'Hold on, that is so much better. The air quality is better, the streets are calmer, we can cycle with our children, we don't feel afraid. Why can't we have that?'" he said.
"Surely cities are for people that live in them, not for the minority that are in these square boxes called cars."
The Greenford, West London-based manufacturer of folding bikes was founded by Andrew Ritchie in 1975, and today employs 450 people, manufacturing just under 50,000 bikes a year, and exporting almost three-quarters of them.
"What are you doing spending billions on a little-bit-faster rail journey from one city to another?" asked Butler-Adams, directing his question to the UK government and its ongoing commitment to the HS2 High-Speed railway project. "Let's sprinkle those billions on 20 cities across the UK for everybody who lives in that city to have a wonderful environment in which to live. I go on that [train] journey regularly, and I don't care about the 20 minutes [saved]; I just want the wifi to work.
"If you build the infrastructure, then people will come," he continued, paraphrasing the line from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. "If you make it safer, the families will come, and once they've experienced it, they love it, so don't expect to take it away easily."
Butler-Adams said that he'd like to see resources directed into "lovely places to live, with clean air, and where walking and cycling is prioritised".
"That would have a dramatic effect over time on the burden on the NHS [Britain's National Health Service]," he added. "We are spending most of our money on supporting the NHS because the lifestyle we are living is extremely unhealthy."
Butler-Adams dismissed the country's politicians as only thinking in the short-term and about their own positions.
"If we, the people, get frustrated enough, we will create the political leadership because we want it," he said. "That's why this opportunity at the moment is so important. We have seen what we want, we have had this enlightenment, and seen what we need to do as a society, and [we need to say to the government that] what you are currently delivering is totally unacceptable."
Watch the full video interview with Butler-Adams here.
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