If there is one recurring theme in Swindon’s history, it is the way its leaders seized opportunities to stay ahead of the game.

The coming of the GWR in the 1840s; the addition of a Carriage and Wagon Works in the 1860s; brand new industries at the turn of the century; then massive expansion of the Railway Works after the First World War. While the rest of the world suffered crippling depression, Swindon built the largest covered workshop in Europe.

Then, after the Second World War, councillors applied for us to be an overspill town for bombed-out Londoners, creating a boom that brought yet more new industries, new communities and new assets, such as Lydiard House and Park, a cool art collection and more.

Swindon always seemed to see the tide, before it turned, so why does it feel like we are now adrift in a storm, without a rudder? Last week this paper reported the apparently good news that Swindon could be in line for money from the government, via something called the Towns Fund.

This has been called a plan, but so far it is only a bid for money, so not so much a plan as a hope.

Seven areas in the town have been earmarked for cash injections and are, indeed, worthy projects, particularly as several are irreplaceable heritage assets whose renovation and preservation are long overdue. So why does it all sound so much like the recent failed bid for a new museum and art gallery?

That dream turned into a car crash because public consultation and therefore support was too little, too late, and because the absence of any joined-up approach or commitment to Swindon’s heritage convinced those giving out the money that we hadn’t considered the bigger picture.

My first impression of the Towns Fund plan is we are still stuck with the sticking plaster approach, as if a few aspirins - if we get them - will ease our pain, when nothing short of starting again with a complete blood transfusion will do.

The whole world is at a crossroads, but at a time when other places are rethinking their approach to transport and the environment, I scoured the whole report of Swindon’s Towns Fund bid for the word ‘cycling’. It wasn’t there. When I approached one councillor to ask about the potential to reinvent our town centre and transform Swindon’s fortunes by riding the green wave we all know must come, he said he feared it was going to be another lost opportunity.

I know being a keen cyclist makes me biased, but even the Prime Minister, who is hardly a health freak, is urging people to get on their bikes.

Swindon could lead the way once again, this time with radical provision for not only cyclists, but pedestrians and public transport. So be bold, Swindon, and build a long-term strategy instead of chasing quick fixes. You have nothing to lose but poor health, empty shops and costly car parks.