The Perfect [Fart in a Thunder]Storm

All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling Inquiry

HM Government Response (which may have been tweaked by the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club)

The Department for Transport is pleased to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of HM Government to the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report. The Department welcomes this report, as it has done everything in its power to suppress cycling over the past few decades and now has a golden opportunity to go for it again.

This response is made on behalf of the Department for Transport, which has the responsibility of trying to disperse as much responsibility for cycling policy as it can in England, outside London. Wales, Scotland and London have their own insipid programmes to support cycling.

The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report’s 18 recommendations, and the Government’s response to these, are below.

1. Create a cycling budget of £10 per person per year, increasing to £20.

Since February 2012 the Department for Transport has made an additional £159 million available for cycling infrastructure in England. Projects include: some racks at railway stations; painting bicycle symbols on pavements in communities; schemes to improve the layout of road junctions to make them even less cycle friendly; and recently announced piecemeal schemes in cities and National Parks with some photos of smiling people in helmets and hi-viz jackets.

Following the £77 million of Cycle Ambition Grants announced by the Prime Minister for eight cities across England, investment in cycling in these areas is now in excess of £10 per head per year. Along with local contributions, this equates to £18 per head of population across the funding period. [1] [2]

Making you think that figure meant the entire UK population was inspired by
[1] Watching old videos of The Paul Daniels Show
[2] …..and the bit from The David Copperfield Magic Show where he makes a Boeing 747 disappear. We’re thinking of drafting him in as a consultant for our Aviation Strategy.

94 of the 96 projects being funded by the Department for Transport’s £600 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund contain a cycling element. Together with local contributions, this is £1 billion of investment. Yes! We can’t believe we had the balls to write this stuff either! We’re thinking of changing our name from DfT to just LOL!!

Bikeability cycle training grant provides funding of up to £40 per child training place which will get forgotten outside the school gates as the roads are seen as too dangerous in the parent’s eyes.

2. Ensure local and national bodies, such as the Highways Agency, Department for Transport and local government allocate funds to cycling of at least the local proportion of journeys done by bike.

Through the Integrated Transport block, the Department for Transport is giving a significant amount of money to local authorities enabling them to design solutions appropriate to their local transport challenges, which is a bit like giving the Taliban funding to promote ‘International Women’s Day’.

The Highways Agency (HA) works with cycling organisations to provide parallel routes, safe access and crossing points to try and keep cyclists away from ‘The Precious’ (or ‘Strategic Route Network’). These schemes are funded within the HA’s portfolio of Microscopic Improvement Schemes, on which the expenditure is approximately £50 million each year across the portfolio (3% of the HA’s operational programme budget of c.£2 billion or ‘Fuck All’ to use basic transport vernacular).

Furthermore, significant junction upgrades and other improvements will help cyclists at locations on the HA’s trunk road network taking the risk factor from ‘Appallingly Designed & Lethal’ to ‘Appallingly Redesigned & Lethal’. A pittance will be invested in upgrades at 14 locations over the next two years, and a further pittance will be invested in 2015/16, with plans in place for many more similar schemes beyond that diluting the funding further so it has about as much impact as this document.

3. Cycle spending that makes a tangible contribution to other government departments, such as Health, Education, Sport and Business, should be funded from those budgets, not just the DfT.

The Government just worked out that cycling improves health (and have officially stopped using Boris Johnson as a gauge. That just confused matters) but not quite sure how to apply this new knowledge. So we are going to chuck £1 million over the next two years to be shared across at least four of the eight Cycling Ambition Grant cities in a desperate hope that someone rides a bicycle or eats an apple or does something healthy or something.

Across the country as a whole, cycling stands to benefit from the Government’s healthcare reforms where it can be used to deliver against local health priorities. Responsibility and funding (worth £5.45 billion over the next two years) for public health has been devolved to local authorities that haven’t a clue about bicycles or are hostile about bicycles. Oh, and £5.45 billion is about the same amount that the NHS spends each year alone on obesity and obesity related diseases.

This places local authorities in a much stronger position to stuff up the wider determinants of health, including transport, through adopting a more holistic approach to the planning and delivery of local services. Statutory guidance from DH specifically mentions the need for Health and Wellbeing Boards to consider transport as a wider determinant of health when drawing up Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and highlights the opportunity to use Health and Wellbeing Strategies to join up health and transport services…………….No, we don’t have a clue what that paragraph meant either……………………..erm…………………….does jogging to catch a bus count?

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport also fund cycling at elite and community levels through the Mr-Tickle’s-arms-length bodies UK Sport and Sport England who both work with British Cycling which is as relevant to mass cycling in Britain as Bonsai conservation or the origins of the litter bin.

On the plus side, a whip-round of £507.34 will be ring fenced to get Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish to shut the fuck up on the subject of helmet compulsion.

4. A statutory requirement that cyclists’ and pedestrians’ needs are considered at an early stage of all new development schemes, including housing and business developments as well as traffic and transport schemes, including funding through the planning system.

The National Planning Policy Framework introduced in 2011 can be ignored if it means taking space from cars:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/

file/6077/2116950.pdf

The Department’s technical guidance on designing for residential developments, Manual for Streets, can be ignored if it means taking space from cars:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil

e/3891/pdfmanforstreets.pdf

The Department’s guidance on providing for cyclists, Local Transport Note 2/08: Cycle Infrastructure Design, can be ignored if it means taking space from cars:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil

e/3808/ltn-2-08.pdf

The Government has already helped local authorities to provide for cyclists, for example by making it easier to introduce contraflow cycling using ‘no entry except cyclists’ signing. Contraflow cycling means that cyclists can use one-way streets to avoid the busiest roads and junctions in the absence of anything decent there and will cause a welcome orgasm for Editors of Local Newspapers and the expert commenters that they attract.

Through the revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, due in 2015, Government will be making further changes to make it easier for councils to install cycle facilities, by removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists (such as ‘No Right Turn Except Cycles’). At least until Eric Pickles decides to open his trap as it will be seen as ‘anti-car’.

5. Revise existing design guidance, to include more secure cycling parking, continental best practice for cycle-friendly planning and design, and an audit process to help planners, engineers and architects to ‘think bike’ in all their work.

The Department’s guidance for local authorities on providing for cyclists, Local Transport Note 2/08: Cycle Infrastructure Design, was published in 2008. It provides comprehensive advice on designing and installing a wide range of measures which is nearly always ignored with local authorities instead drawing deep draughts of inspiration from the works of Jackson Pollock.

The Department will also consider endorsement and promotion of TfL’s new cycle infrastructure guidance outside London when it is published next year advising red and green paint to be switched to Barclays Blue and junctions worthy of ‘The Krypton Factor’.

DfT will be organising a summit later this year on cycling infrastructure which will focus on training for designers and practitioners. It is intended that input will be sought from professional bodies that haven’t designed a decent cycle facility in their lives.

Many of the measures identified as good practice in other countries are already possible in Britain, for example fully segregated cycle lanes and providing a form of priority for cyclists at side roads. Decisions on how best to provide for cyclists on local roads are just over the North Sea with national government showing a lead but instead we want it handed down to local authorities – not only do they have a duty to put the car first when considering how to design and manage their road networks, but they also tend to despise anything from mainland Europe for some reason.

The Department for Transport also plans to take action to help local authorities to:-

Share a glittering history of appalling practice, lack of knowledge and no experience on the engineering and traffic management solutions sadly all too readily available to address common challenges to making roads more cycle-friendly;

Investigate opportunities for local government collaboration in the preparation and testing of old masquerading as new engineering (think ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ and you get the general idea) and traffic management solutions (to shoehorn badly compromised cycling ‘solutions’ around getting as much motorised traffic through their areas); and

Help local authorities identify how best to involve cyclists themselves in identifying the right solutions to local challenges by consulting with local groups and then building a shared use pavement anyway but now ticking the box that says ‘consulted with cyclists’.

6. The Highways Agency should draw up a programme to remove the barriers to cycle journeys parallel to or across trunk roads and motorway corridors, starting with the places where the potential for increased cycle use is greatest.

In his statement on 12th August 2013, the Prime Minister announced that cycling will be at the heart of future road developments. He committed to ensuring that all new big road developments will incorporate the needs of cyclists into their planning and design (using politically compromised designers, non-existent standards and ignored guidelines) in an ongoing commitment to put infrastructure currently regarded as a joke internationally everywhere.

Work will begin immediately on junction re-hashes and other pointless meddling that will keep cyclists on the trunk road network on their toes. £5 million will be invested in upgrades at 14 locations with design or construction work starting this year and a further £15 million will be invested in 2015 to 2016, with plans in place for many more similar schemes beyond that. Oh, by the way, £28 billion was announced for the Strategic Road Network only last month. I repeat: £28 billion. And I repeat again: £28 billion.

The Highways Agency is working with cycling groups to provide training for highway engineers so that they design cycle friendly road improvements. You might as well have Jeremy Clarkson teaching the works of Socrates through the art of Improvisational Dance.
The Highways Agency liaises with local cycling groups and has recently opened up yet more dialogue with British Cycling. The Highways Agency also hosts the Vulnerable Road Users Committee attended by vulnerable road user groups, including Sustrans and CTC, twice a year. Which is nice. For ‘committee’, read ‘box ticking exercise’ or ‘County Cycle Forum’ for sheer effectiveness.

7. Local authorities should seek to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing roads, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation.

The Department for Transport expects local authorities to up their game from ‘appalling’ to ‘slightly-appalling-but-we-have-now-been-to-a-conference’ in delivering infrastructure that takes cycling into account from the design stage.

The Department for Transport provides funding to local authorities to implement improvements to their local road infrastructure, but it is for local authorities to prioritise schemes dependent on motorist’s wishes.

Local authorities have a duty to consider the needs of all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians as a last resort, when managing their road networks. In making changes they should consider the needs of all users, including vulnerable pedestrians such as elderly people and those other non-driving leeches with mobility issues or visual impairments. This is usually solved with painting a bicycle symbol on the pavement to keep everyone suitably antagonised and energised. Until a car or tradesman’s van parks on it.

8. The Department for Transport should approve and update necessary new regulations such as allowing separate traffic lights for cyclists and commencing s6 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.

It is intended that new regulations will be brought into force in 2015. As well as new traffic lights to give cyclists a ‘sporting chance’ at junctions, other measures being considered include:

Removing the requirement for a lead-in lane for cyclists at advanced stop lines, making it easier for highway authorities to install advanced stop lines at junctions that are ignored by motorists and putting cyclists in a pole position more tense than the start of the Monaco Grand Prix;

Options for joint crossings for use by both pedestrians and cyclists, filter signals for cyclists, options for bigger cycle boxes (advanced stop lines), removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists, such as ‘no right turn except cycles’. This will make it easier for local authorities to implement the same crap they always have, but even more so.

In advance of the revisions to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions the Government has already made it easier to:

Palm off the Introduction of 20mph speed restrictions to Local Authorities that haven’t the money to implement them properly and police them even less. All of the successful Cycling Ambition Grant cities have plans to introduce area-wide 20mph speed limits as part of their programme to make city streets more cycle-friendly; which is not exactly how it’s implemented in mainland Europe but trying to introduce networks for different modes, and cutting off rat runs involves thinking and doing stuff.

Use “Trixi” mirrors at junctions so that lorry and bus drivers can see cyclists more easily before coming into inevitable and occasionally fatal contact. But at least it can be seen from different angles now.

9. Extend 20 mph speed limits in towns, and consider 40mph limits on
many rural lanes.

Local authorities are responsible for setting local speed limits in line with their local conditions and requirements meaning a national lack of consistency.

It is important that local authorities take a balanced account of the full range of impacts of changing speed limits, including economic and environmental effects and the inevitable guff from the letters page of the local newspaper on how it’s ‘Health & Safety gone mad’, not to mention the Association of British Drivers (think of a UKIP that’s spectacularly more ignorant and you start to get the general idea).

10. Improve HGV safety by vehicle design, driver training, and mutual awareness with cyclists; promote rail freight and limit use of HGVs on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times, and use public sector projects to drive fleet improvements.

DfT Ministers are treating this issue (the risk posed to cyclists by HGVs) as a priority, because it’s keeps grabbing the headlines (although it always appears to be ‘cyclist collided with…..’ in the press) and have had a number of discussions with the Mayor of London which was like negotiating a migraine. He even used ‘lassitude’ which made things even less clear.

The Department for Transport is now updating some guidance which can also be ignored as we’re shoving yet more responsibility out to the provinces without giving a steer or lead or anything.

Government is promoting the further development of the Strategic Rail Freight Network and has ring-fenced a further £230 million in the period 2014-2019 for the rail industry in Great Britain to take forward its own priority projects on freight. This has nothing to do with what would actually work for cycling but it allows us to insert another ‘headline figure’ in there

We are introducing new standards on Mirrors and camera technology because it’s easier and less tiresome than coming up with standards for quality bicycle infrastructure. And don’t get us started on junctions. No, really – don’t get us started.

11. Strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, including speed limits, and ensuring that driving offences – especially those resulting in death or injury – are treated sufficiently seriously by police, prosecutors and judges.

All road users have a duty to use the road network in a safe and responsible manner and to obey road traffic law. That’s about all we have to say on the subject other than some meetings are going to be held and some blather about stakeholders. Obviously we can’t bring in US style gun laws so we just wanted the car to be the weapon of choice for people that may have a grievance without all the formal enquiries and calls for controls as the victims of collisions with cars in this country are regarded merely as ‘collateral damage’.

12. Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools.

The Department for Transport provides funding to local authorities and School Games Organisers for training that’s promptly forgotten as it’s vetoed by the parents who regard it as a lethal activity making it a tragic waste of trainers time and taxpayers money but ‘c’est la vie’ as Nigel Farrage wouldn’t say. It looks as though we are doing something constructive whilst ignoring the stuff that would actually enhance the hard work of cycle trainers like quality infrastructure but that would involve proper investment and not the pathetic figures we’re bandying about here.

13. Offer widespread affordable (or free) cycle training and other programmes to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to give cycling a try, as evidenced by NICE.

The LSTF invited local authorities to submit bids which may include cycling. All £600 million from the fund has now been committed to deliver 96 packages. Of those 96 packages, 77 contained cycle training which includes 48 adult training packages because they are cheaper than infrastructure and will probably not trouble the minds of the majority of the general public.

Bikeability is not only for children, despite having a revised childish name. There is a range of training available to suit all requirements from the complete beginner wanting to boost their confidence to those wanting to develop more advanced skills such as dualled trunk roads which commenters on some cycle forums think are perfectly reasonable to cycle on.

14. Promote cycling as a safe and normal activity for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Cycle safety is very important, which is why the Department for Transport has given £35m to improve safety at dangerous junctions across England and have helped local councils to design solutions appropriate to their local challenges, including improving their road infrastructure to encourage and is the equivalent of attempting to mop up the River Thames with a ‘J Cloth’ for sheer futility.

The small rise in the number of cyclists seriously injured may be due to the increase in cycling which has been seen in recent years and the Department will continue to progress initiatives to improve cycle safety except the stuff that would actually make a fundamental difference.

Bikeability cycle training provides people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities with the skills and confidence to cycle safely and competently on modern roads if you ride like Mark Cavendish on a combination of MDMA and Lucozade and realise how uncomfortable cycling in this country is, then put the bike away and go inside, mix a nice Gin and Tonic and book a holiday to the Netherlands. Bikeability is appearing an awful lot here isn’t it?

Government is keen to do more to promote leisure and utility cycling along existing rights of way because our stakeholders excel at this, and to reduce the red tape around the creation and maintenance of multi-use cycle routes so that we have more crappily implemented regional and national cycle networks where cyclists, pedestrians, the visually impaired and dog walkers can swear at each other.

The Government is committed to turning Britain into a cycling nation to rival our European neighbours. This means introducing policies that will make it easier for everyone to cycle, regardless of their age or background. We have already invited colleagues from the Netherlands to conferences here to tell them to their bemused faces that their solutions wouldn’t work here and that their 40 years of engineering expertise in developing incredible and constantly evolving infrastructure for bicycles is cute but they’ve always been cyclists and that Hackney is far better. We should therefore strive toward policies in a unique British idiom using a hotch potch of Danish/British/Nigerian/Dutch/Galapagos Islands/Finnish/Martian and call the end product ‘Dutch Style’.

15. The Government should produce a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan with annual progress reports.

The Department for Transport has been co-ordinating a cross-departmental effort to promote cycling, in particular with Defra and the Department of Health in a further bid to get our responsibility for cycling out of our building.

Realising our ambition for cycling will require sustained leadership, collaboration and innovation at each level of government and between all sectors. To ensure that robust arrangements are in place to realise the ambition, we will work with stakeholders to assemble a comprehensive delivery plan for publication in the autumn. Did you like that bit of middle management bullshit speak? We will also, moving forward, incorporate ‘blue sky thinking’ into all half arsed meetings with no steer or lead.

The Department for Transport has governance arrangements in place to support the development of cycling policy through the Cycling Stakeholder Forum led by Cycling Minister Norman Baker, a cycling High Level Subgroup and a cross-Whitehall officials Subgroup. Close working relationships will continue as the cycling delivery plan is developed in the same time it took to build the Great Wall of China (including the planning application). The Cycling Stakeholder Forum is probably held in the same reverence as a ‘County Cycle Forum’ and has experts promoting their guides to cycle training, experts on cycling as a sport or recreational activity whilst selling the requisite products to go with it and actually believe the ‘Wiggins Effect’ means something or that promoting the cause of getting women to cycle more will be solved by sponsoring a professional women’s cycling team or drawing their vision of a cycle friendly town as something out of ‘Where’s Wally’ as it elegantly sidesteps taking a serious view on what really works. We don’t really know who they are as its all closed shop with no accountability to mere mortals like you. It’s probably about as useful as tits on a bull anyway.

16. The Government should appoint a national Cycling Champion, an expert from outside the Department for Transport.

The Government has no plans to appoint a national Cycling Champion. However, the Cycle Safety Forum Subgroup provides external expert help and advice and are the reason we have the truly incredible cycling conditions we have now.

17. The Government should set national targets to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050.

The Government does not believe that to set national targets for cycling will encourage take up at local level. It is for Local Authorities to decide on hilarious/dangerous ambitions for their local areas. A ‘One size fits all’ approach is not effective. Why, to compare Guildford with Watford is to compare Mars with Mercury. Apparently.

For example, the eight successful Cycling Ambition Grant cities have all set targets that are ‘ambitious’ (which is the control word for ‘spectacularly unachievable’ in British Politics), but with their local circumstances and current levels of cycling, they have set their own unique ways of not meeting these targets.

The Government continues to invest money – £159m has been announced since the beginning of 2012 – and implement measures that enable more people to say ‘why can’t this country just design a decent junction. Just for once. Please for fucks sake’ and use the car instead.

18. Central and local government and devolved authorities should each appoint a lead politician responsible for cycling.

The Government encourages local authorities to identify a senior Officer or Member to take cycling development forward in their authorities and to champion cycling in their area, despite them getting rid of all their Cycling Officers in the spending cuts. The ‘Cycle Champion’ is usually an older councillor who has ‘ridden a bit’, but you’ve generally got more chance of spotting Tim Loughton MP supporting a Pride march than this person on a bicycle.

In central government Norman Baker champions cycling, as Minister for Cycling (or ‘Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Transport’ for the full and more accurately duller title).

 

2 Comments on The Perfect [Fart in a Thunder]Storm

  1. Michael Rowland
    August 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    The only real difference between this response and the other version is that this one contains the word ‘fuck’.

    Reply
  2. David
    August 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Oh how very true, I particularly liked the reference to ‘Wallyland’. Great stuff

    Reply

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