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Email to Gordon Brown

Re: Government response to petition ‘NoVATonBikes’

Dear Gordon

Thanks for the reply. It’s good of you to get back to me. Tony never did. However, I’m a bit disappointed you don’t want to go for this, and your response that you can’t because the EU won’t let you sounds a bit lame, and plays into the hands of Eurosceptics (you’re not a Eurosceptic are you?). If Europe is a democratic institution, which it’s supposed to be, then surely the British government could campaign to abolish VAT on bikes and bike parts as part of a Europe-wide kind of thing. Climate change is going to affect all EU nations so I would have thought they would all want to encourage people out of their cars and onto bikes wherever possible. As well as being good for the environment, cycling is also good for people’s health and for their state of mind. When you’re on a bike you’re open to a world, and on public transport you’re in a social environment, whereas people who spend too long in cars, closed off to the world and to the people around them, end up like Jeremy Clarkson, which I’m sure you’ll agree is not good.

If the EU don’t go for the scrapping VAT thing, then there’s plenty of other stuff you can do. The way the government subsidizes solar panels. Something like that. Or tax relief on bicycle manufacturers, retailers and repairers. I know you don’t like losing money, so to balance your books you could always raise tax on the high emitting Jeremy Clarksons. Some of them will moan, but things have changed since the roads protests a few years ago. Driving is becoming a bit like smoking. People know it’s bad, so maybe with a bit of carrot and stick you’ll actually see some of these Jeremy Clarksons getting out of their cars onto bikes. But when people take up cycling they need to ride a decent bike, one that’s a pleasure to ride, not a struggle, otherwise they’re just going to be put off and go back to their cars. The trouble is, a decent bike can cost a lot of money, more than many people would be prepared to spend, particularly if they’re only tentatively thinking about taking up cycling and aren’t too sure if they’re going to stick at it.

I think in Paris they have a city-wide bike hire scheme, where people can just take a bike and then they pay for however long they keep it. That sounds like a good idea. Something like that would get people into cycling, make it a more normal kind of thing. Many people who haven’t ridden a bike for ages fear they may have forgotten how, or think they’re too old or out of shape, which puts them off buying one, but if it were easy to just pick up a bike like you apparently can in Paris now, and just ride it for a day, or just for an hour, that could get a lot of people back into cycling.


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