Alan Clarke, the Labour party chairman, was widely tipped to become the new Transport Secretary following yesterday's resignation of Stephen Byers. Clarke is a former chair of the all-party parliamentary cycling group. However, the new Transport supremo is Alistair Darling, a semi convert to the benefits of cycling

Cyclist misses out on becoming new Transport Secretary

Darling is to take over the transport side of Stephen Byers’ portfolio while the regional aspects of the job will revert to Deputy Prime Minister John "Thumper" Prescott.

The fact Clarke didn’t get the job is perhaps not worth worrying about, the last time there was a cycling enthusiast in the top transport job (Sir George Young, a tandemist) cycling did not get much further up the political agenda.

Darling has some cycling credentials: he set up a unit to promote cycling when he chaired

the transportation committee of Lothian Regional Council before becoming an MP. He was also a member of Spokes, the Edinburgh and Lothian cycle-users group.

Richard Thomas, CTC Campaigns and Policy Manager, said:

"He must surely appreciate that cycling can make a considerable contribution to reducing congestion and pollution even if policies that benefit communities and the environment incense the powerful motoring lobby."

A statement from Sustrans welcomed the new Transport Secretary, and urged him to ‘think small’:

"The Transport brief is undoubtedly one of the most challenging to undertake. For many decades the prime focus of transport activity has been on the large-scale infrastructure

projects of road and rail. The media will inevitably continue to measure the Transport Department’s performance against sorting out the deeply-rooted problems of the railways that will inevitably take many years and billions of pounds to resolve.

"However, the new Secretary of State [should] consider the enormous potential of multiple, local, small scale projects that can be delivered quickly with great effect as well as soft measures that can be delivered equally quickly and effectively with little or no infrastructure requirements.

"We live in the most congested country in Europe. Sustrans believes that building more roads would not only be extremely costly, but simply encourage yet more traffic, damaging the environment and exacerbating health problems. The predicament, as Sustrans sees it, is not how to move more cars at higher speeds over greater distances, but how to

reduce traffic and ensure people can travel (when necessary) in a safe, sustainable, healthy and efficient way."

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