Posts Tagged ‘Department for Transport’

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).

 

Well, Fancy That! No 2: Children will be Children

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The Dutch even have bins like this by every school because they actually understand that children are lazy little sods…..sorry, I meant the future. That the children are our future. (Picture: David Hembrow - Go on his study tour and try this bin yourself – click on the picture for further details)

Just before I set off for David Hembrow’s Study Tour in The Netherlands late last year, people jokingly said to me, ‘don’t forget to put aero bars on your Dutch Bike’. I thought these were quasi-hilarious jibes about the aerodynamic qualities of my Dutch Bike, or lack thereof. It wasn’t until I was enjoying a coffee and looking out of a delightful Dutch Bed & Breakfast window one morning that I actually understood what they meant – amongst the legions of young people cycling to school and college were bikes with aero bars fitted onto them. Although they were probably to assist in persistent headwinds (as some students cover quite a distance on their commutes from outlying suburbs and villages), they were also remarkably handy for resting ones arms on to use a smartphone for social networking – an essential pre-requisite to youth. Indeed the infrastructure provided allows all ages to cycle in groups and chat away which is social networking at its best.  There were no shouts from motorists, and I assume no-one froths at the mouth in the local or national newspapers either. Basically, the Dutch have created an environment where their children can be children and don’t have to pay anything like the ultimate price if they make a mistake. And I think that’s very honest, civilised and quite incredible.

This situation came at a cost. The Netherlands and the UK  both saw widespread decline of the bicycle from the 1950′s as the car became the symbol of modernity. A lot of old cycle infrastructure was ripped out to make way for such progress. The result? In 1972, a total of 3264 people were killed on Dutch roads, and in 1973, 450 road deaths were of children, mostly travelling to and from school. Since that point, and partly due to the launch in 1973 of the ‘Stop De Kindermoord’ (‘Stop the Child Murder’) pressure group along with the OPEC fuel crisis, the Dutch gradually took the decision to return to the bicycle and acknowledge that the car has its place but people come first. Nearly 40 years on and Britain is still struggling with this concept to its detriment. More on ‘Stop de Kindermoord’ can be found herehere and from this excellent film.

If the Famous Five went for a bike ride in today’s Britain, they would find a landscape ripe for adventures, but not necessarily children’s adventures. If they were actually allowed out in the first place on their own, there would still be the odd patchwork quilt of fields and woods to enjoy (but not to play in of course, they’ll only create trouble). Swallows, Sparrows & The International Space Station would see our pubescent peloton venturing down country lanes due to their Hi-Viz and helmets. The motorists won’t of course as they steam through at jolly impolite speeds. Eventually, sweaty and defeated at trying to have adventures in a Britain ruined by adults, they head home for lashings of Ginger Beer. Or Crabbie’s, probably.

Look at that. No lights, no Hi-Viz, no helmets and I bet they don’t have any plastic bags to clean up after Timmy the Dog….

Another contentious area where child and adult Worlds collide is that of helmet compulsion. Annette Brooke MP is leading the latest well-meaning but misguided charge, no doubt following on from Bradley Wiggins, who uses his bicycle to win major sporting events as opposed to buying some milk or getting a library book. Before we take a glance into this emotive side issue, I’ll just give you my ‘official’ stance.

I fully appreciate why people feel compelled to wear cycle helmets in today’s hostile British road environment. However we must strive to create conditions where helmets and protective clothing are seen as irrelevant as opposed to essential. If adults currently feel compelled not just to wear cycle helmets and high visibility clothing but also to put surveillance measures on their helmets in the form of cameras, then what hope is there for our children wishing to simply cycle to school? It is not really the most cordial invite to a mode of transport that should be everyday, safe, even a bit boring and not classified as an extreme sport.

Even Evel Knievel paused for a moment to consider cycling around Vauxhall Cross…

Note, that like the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, or indeed CycleNation and CTC, I am not anti-helmet but anti-compulsion for cycling as transport. On this, all cycling groups stand united.

However I have a confession to make; when I cycle with my two and a half-year old son on the Dutch Bike, I put a helmet on him. I do this not because of safety concerns but because I feel that I look like a bad parent if I don’t with scathing looks and comments (mainly from people who don’t cycle yet but do like writing letters to local newspapers due to anger management issues from not cycling). I don’t wear a helmet for the simple reason that when I used to wear one when commuting from Morden to Camden Town in London, it was like a subconscious cloak of invincibility and I put myself in road positions that were, at best daring, at worst,  lethal. I’ve often observed since that people who wear a helmet ride as though they need a helmet. Without a helmet, I don’t put myself or any passengers in that danger in the first place. Also when off the bike, my son, being a toddler, has received more bumps to the head than Laurel & Hardy combined in his short toddling career. I assume I’m a bad parent for not keeping the helmet on him at all times but curiously no-one seems to be having a serious debate on this.

I’m now going to give out a piece of information that I think has been lost in this debate but it always helps to remind ourselves.

Children don’t always do what you tell them because they are children.

Imagine that helmets were made compulsory for children under the age of, say, 16. One day my son will want to cycle to a local shop to buy sweets, just like his Dad used to years and years and years and years and years ago. He may realise that his cycle helmet is upstairs in his bedroom and he just can’t be bothered to get it as the shop is only 5 minutes ride away. Even if I made him put it on, there’s nothing to stop him taking it off again when out of sight because it doesn’t look cool (or whatever the word is these days). If you didn’t do anything naughty or without your parents knowledge when you were younger, than you are deluding yourself. So, he cycles off without one and because putting helmets on everything and hoping for the best allows the powers that be to ignore the real issues of road safety, he gets hit by a real issue in the form of a car. Not only would we have the emotional turmoil of an injured child (or worse) but also the legal and social ramifications of him not having a helmet on. This to me is needless insanity, especially allied to the fact that the real answers for keeping children (and indeed all ages) safer, are a simple ferry trip away.

There is of course excellent cycle training available in this country. I did so well in my cycling proficiency in the late 1970′s, I got a copy of the Highway Code as a prize. The bicycle is a very liberating experience for a child and Bikeability (as it is now known) is enjoying a large takeup today. However, a report was published in March this year that you probably haven’t seen. It was written by transport consultancy, Steer Davies Gleave, for the Department for Transport called Cycling to School 

This is from the conclusions,

‘Overall this report shows the level of children cycling to school in the last five years has remained stable. There have been small increases in the actual numbers of secondary school age children cycling to school between 2006 and 2011 across the UK. However, this has been almost matched by a very small decline in the proportion of primary school children cycling to school.’

Where there were rises in Secondary Schools, there had been a concentrated efforts on cycle training in the Primary Schools that feed the Secondary Schools in question. There are of course all kinds of variables & factors to take in account when viewing the data. Generally however, I believe that a lot of excellent training is going to waste. We can train all the children we like to cycle on our current road system but if it looks dangerous (especially to the parents) or there is one close pass from a motorist then that, as they say, is that. The bike heads off to the shed to come out maybe at officially sanctioned events such as the Sky Rides or Boris Johnson’s latest elegant parlour trick to avoid addressing the real road safety issues, ‘Ride London‘ – the biggest irony being that although a safe traffic free environment is created, helmets and hi-viz are de rigueur.

Here is a film by Mark Wagenbuur of children cycling to school in Culemborg in The Netherlands. I just want to show this as it deftly addresses the issues touched on in this post; no safety equipment (even students occasionally giving friends a lift in on their rear racks – could you imagine that happening here?!), cycling as groups for greater social safety and also quality time to chat and share gossip. Above all decent infrastructure, that goes where people need it to go, combined with 30kph roads to create segregated routes (ie routes that could not be completed or would take longer by car).


We have created a nation that is still debating 20mph where people live, a nation still debating curtailing someone’s right to drive like an idiot around its own people, a nation still building cycle infrastructure that is often a dangerous insult whilst ignoring examples that work probably due to fear of cost, despite continuing to build ever more expensive and intimidating streetscapes, a nation that expects its young people to stick on a helmet, some hi-viz and hope for the best. I think that’s spineless, uncivilised and quite despicable.

Children will be children. It’s a pity that the adults are behaving even more childishly.

Well, Fancy That! No 1: Nice Things Cost Money

Localism for Dummies

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A Wet Parliamentary Bike Ride

Last Tuesday morning, I put on my Cycling Embassy of Great Britain approved attire (just a regular suit for a regular activity) and attended the Annual All-Party Parliamentary Bike Ride, which is now in its twelfth year and is a prelude to Bike Week. Despite the wretched weather, there was a respectable turn out of MP’s (also in Cycling Embassy of Great Britain approved attire) including Norman Baker again (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport).

After the ride, we assembled in the Houses of Parliament to listen as Mr Baker spoke about how wonderful cycling is and took questions (I recorded it for YouTube and it should be going out shortly if you can contain your excitement). One of the key points he made was that cycle campaigners should not be afraid to approach Government Departments other than transport. This, in a way, makes sense; after all riding a bicycle is healthy so the Department for Health should be actively promoting it, it could get kids to school so the Department for Education should be actively promoting it and it is good for the economy where high quality infrastructure would bring rewards both locally and nationally to the exchequer so the Treasury should be actively promoting it. The problem is that we are pretty hopeless at the ‘high-quality infrastructure’ bit – the very thing that has been proven to have success overseas in getting the masses on their bicycles with increased subjective safety. So I guess that brings us back to the Department for Transport, who should be actively promoting it.

Cycling has always been about ‘Localism’ and ‘Big Society’ with local campaigners and activists that have been bashing their heads against the wall of local democracy for years (and for free). This, for me is where the problem lies; it’s all well and good giving local authorities ‘the right tools’ with devolved powers, but what if they don’t know what to do with them (or don’t even want to know). It’s like giving a group of primary school children ‘the right tools’ to design Britain’s successor to Trident – many will be keen as mustard and will give it their best shot. The results they come up with, whilst thankfully not feasible, will be all the more wonderful as a result and fascinating.

…and then it comes back down and blows everything up, Daddy. Next week we’re redesigning Bow Roundabout to give it lots of pretty lights….

The results that local authorities come up with for bicycles are usually far from wonderful and although we’d be fascinated to know how they arrived at their conclusions, local campaigners are usually locked out. It’s as though they are left staring through the railings at some sort of nightmare-ish Willy Wonka factory churning out pointless pavement conversions. Except their Council Tax helped pay for the nightmare.

Where ‘Transport’ and ‘Sustainable Transport’ collide (Worthing, West Sussex)

What’s worse is that when Councils across the land started to make austerity cuts, we didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that the position of Cycling Officer would be the first to go thereby cutting what is usually the only gateway between local campaign groups and the local authority. Worse still is that many councillors are actively hostile towards the humble bicycle, who view it as a symbol of non-aspiration to ferry the great unwashed along the gutter or an imposition to progress in their local area (particularly to the golf club). After all, bike parking doesn’t bring in parking fees, the most consistent issue in any local newspaper. In many cases, asking a Council to organise a consistent quality cycling policy is a bit like asking Nick Griffin to organise the Notting Hill Carnival.

I’m certainly not against localism. There are Local Authorities that are trying at the very least to understand the bicycle and just what a bewilderingly diverse mode of getting about their patch it is. But I personally believe that there has to be stronger guidance from Central Government in terms of consistent infrastructure standards, policy and funding which is at best piecemeal and often utterly soul-destroying for local campaigners. I still cannot fathom why ‘Transport’ and ‘Sustainable Transport’ are still treated as separate entities – We build a major road scheme and then apply the sustainable bits at the side or as an afterthought, which is why it needs to be integral to the Department for Transport, as opposed to a quango whose flame can be snuffed out as easily as Cycling England.

Everyone, from Local Authorities that haven’t yet realised the real benefits of the bicycle from more energised workforce & schoolchildren, better local business and increased tourism (or ‘Localism’) to local campaign groups (or ‘Big Society’) deserve far better than this.

Somewhere, Beyond The Screen…

These are not a Hazards. They are the Dukes of Hazzard. The driving standards in Hazzard County are quite tepid compared to modern Britain.

According to Wikipedia…

‘Hazards are sometimes classified into three modes:[1]

  • Dormant – The situation has the potential to be hazardous, but no people, property, or environment is currently affected by this. For instance, a hillside may be unstable, with the potential for a landslide, but there is nothing below or on the hillside that could be affected.
  • Armed – People, property, or environment are in potential harm’s way.
  • Active – A harmful incident involving the hazard has actually occurred. Often this is referred to not as an “active hazard” but as an accident, emergency, incident, or disaster.’

The Times, as part of its excellent ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ (#cyclesafe on Twitter) campaign, has created a map where people can select a particular area and plot specific junctions, roads or routes that they find hazardous for riding a bicycle whilst stating why. Already plotted are places where a hazard has become an accident, emergency, incident or disaster (based on Department for Transport’s 2010 data).

They [sadly] only need a few more to make it to the 10,000 entries milestone so I urge you to go online and have your say. If you can, have your say on major thoroughfares such as Trunk Roads near where you live that you might ride as they are the most direct routes but won’t due to the perceived risk involved from high speeds to traffic volume. Bicycle riders are entitled to use these, despite many being Motorways in all but name, but because they lack high-grade separated paths alongside them favouring instead rather ‘optimistic’ bicycle signage at slip roads, subjectively they are as practical, comfortable and family friendly as an Annual Naked Bike Ride across Siberia. You won’t find many pinpoints on trunk roads like the one close to where I grew up (A3) not because they’re safe (although with decent sight lines, steadier curves and gradients, in theory they should be) but because only the quick and the brave will use them.

There are more active ways to get involved in campaigning on Saturday 28th April; firstly the Pedal on Parliament in Edinburgh

It has been organised by a diverse [and lovely] group of cyclists from around Scotland (including the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain Secretary, Sally Hinchcliffe) following calls in the Scottish parliament for action on the Times campaign. They request your presence at the Meadows at 2pm for a 3pm start to cycle a  1.5 mile route to Holyrood, before a mass picnic. There will be ‘feeder’ rides from outlying areas of the city. If you are Scottish or just happen to be living in Scotland but above all care about cycling in Scotland, please attend.

On the same day in London is The Big Ride

This is part of LCC’s ‘Love  London, Go Dutch’ campaign, calling on the Government to place the same emphasis on cycle safety as they do in the Netherlands. They have a petition which, at this time of writing, has amassed 33,797 signatures which is a marvelous effort from LCC staff and all the volunteers that have been out on the streets gathering support.

They’ve even made a film…

To add to the long list of things to protest about, The Times reported on the 16th that John Griffin, the founder of Addison Lee, wrote to his 3,500 drivers telling  them to use the restricted lanes and promising to pay any fines incurred. This is part of an ongoing campaign for private hire vehicles to use bus lanes. This story has already received good coverage in CycaLogical and Cyclists in the City. Lest to say, when I lived in London I used to cycle to Camden Town from Morden and then Brixton every day, I found Addison Lee drivers to be the most memorable, often driving like the Blues Brothers on Amphetamines. They still stick in my mind, years later.

And, on the subject of sticking, the BBC reported earlier this week that a study has found that traffic pollution kills 5,000 people a year in the UK, with 2,200 in London. What is Boris Johnson’s solution, I hear you cry (or choke). According to this excellent post from Vole O’Speed,

Johnson’s “solution” is to put pollution suppressants in front of air quality monitors, so reducing the number of occasions on which the PM10 value is reported to be breached and reducing the number of smog alerts, both preventing the public from being warned of the dangerous conditions, and attempting to circumvent the discovery of legal breaches, and application of fines. This is what the Campaign for Clear Air in London, a non party-political organisation, condemns as “public health fraud on an industrial scale“. And as the MP for Brent North, Barry Gardiner, said in a Tweet yesterday: “Boris’s pollution suppressors near air quality monitors is like putting breathing apparatus on the canary in the mines!” 

It reminds me of a nursery rhyme I tell my two-year old son

Mr Johnson went to London
in a smog filled hue
he stepped in pollution
and thought the solution
was to buy a big job-lot of glue

I may have changed the words slightly.

The Most Green/Greening/Greenery Government Ever?

100% more Greening. Being Green. With Greenery in the background (Picture from Wandsworth Cycling Campaign)

These are fascinating times we are living in if you’re into Greening issues. I think the Government actually meant to say it is ‘the most Greening ever’ as, in a sense it has delivered 100% more Greening than the previous administration.

However, Wikipedia defines ‘Greening’ thus;

‘Greening is the process of transforming artifacts such as a space, a lifestyle or a brand image into a more environmentally friendly version (i.e. ‘greening your home’ or ‘greening your office’). The act of greening involves incorporating “green” products and processes into one’s environment, such as the home, work place, and general lifestyle.’

So the Coalition has taken things a bit too literally and transformed a space (The Department for Transport) by putting a Greening in it. I hope the Secretary of State for Transport is settling in to her new role and the Brompton pictured is not neatly folded away collecting dust with the Prime Ministers hybrid bicycle.

Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Infrastructure Plan. From a transport perspective, it contained yet more Very Big Plans For Britain such as Superspeed Broadband allowing one to see the economy contracting live from an iPhone whilst riding in new railway rolling stock (although a new season ticket will cost about the same as purchasing Wiltshire) or driving on lots more roads and improvements to roads and different funding models for roads and an end to bottlenecks on roads. And widening of roads, of course.

A sane person that knows how to look at a long term plan that actually works might think, ‘well, this could be a wonderful opportunity for cycling infrastructure as it gives an excellent proven rate of return with reduced obesity and greater health and wellbeing and greater freedom of mobility for all ages, classes, genders, colours and creeds and reduced air pollution meaning no more fines from the EU for failing to meet emissions targets and a greater feeling of not just subjective safety from traffic which is the greatest intervention to get the masses cycling but also greater subjective safety in the communities that they are cycling and walking through as more people are out and about accomplishing more than CCTV ever could whilst giving the public peace of mind that we are decreasing our reliance on oil in an ever more volatile market’. It would appear that in times of desperation, sanity is given short shrift.

Cycling features once in the 173 page document - 

3.49 The Government’s £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund will also help to reduce emissions from vehicles, improve air quality and rural transport connections, by helping local transport authorities do more to encourage walking and cycling, improve public transport and make better connections between different forms of sustainable transport.

I’ve already commented on this before though (as have many others) as its simply retreading old ground so there’s really not much to say other than a superb opportunity has been missed to spend money on infrastructure which if done correctly, could produce an astounding rate of return. It would also make ‘soft measures’ such as cycle training and promotion even better value for money (if that’s possible as much is accomplished already on a shoestring) as the number of new bicycle riders are retained as opposed to someone having training, having a close call with a motorist and putting the bicycle back into the shed until the next Skyride.

It also means a lack of national strategy and cohesion as money is thrown out to the provinces that treat cycling as something that might look nice in a brochure but is really a hindrance to local growth.

Kermit the Frog - Greener than West Sussex County Council (although slightly less hilarious than their Local Transport Plan)

So I don’t think this is the Greenest Government ever or the most Greening. Maybe it’s the most Greenery Government ever? Oh no, wait. It looks like the reforms to the Planning system might see more natural habitats destroyed in the wake of unsustainable development.

It ain’t easy trying to be green, or Greening, or greenery.

Words and Pictures

The police escort arrives to give me my Guard of Honour to the Houses of Parliament. Oh, and escort some MP's and Lords and yadda yadda yadda.

Last Wednesday, I caught the train up to London for the Annual Parliamentary Bike Ride which is the promotional prelude to Bike Week. As I was taking my Dutch Bike along, I had to catch the first train out of Worthing to beat Southern Rail’s [non-folding] bike ban which operates between 7-10am. I then cycled along Victoria Street, round Parliament Square (fine for me on an upright Dutch bike but I wouldn’t expect my mother to cycle this comfortably – unless she was actually a reasonably fit man aged between 18-45), over Westminster Bridge taking the vaguest of vague left turns into Belvedere Road toward the start point at the London Eye.

Carlton Reid interviewing Ed Clancy. He'd just interviewed me which was all the work he had to do really.

This is an event organised by CycleNation and ex-colleague Adam Coffman of CTC in particular. The great and the good of cycle campaigning were there including London Cycling Campaign’s new Chief Executive Dr Ashok Sinha. The ride was to take us over Blackfriars Bridge where Carlton Reid made this film.

We cycled along the Embankment, past Buckingham Palace and on to the Houses of Parliament where Norman Baker (MP for Lewes, East Sussex and Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport) took questions before dashing off to catch a train.

Cycling over Blackfriars Bridge. It's quite pleasant and relaxing with a police escort. Some decent infrastructure and a maintained 20mph limit will do.

 It was all very nice but that’s all it was. I’m all for devolving power but it needs the Department for Transport to treat the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport and keep a grip on Local & Highways Authorities whose main mission seems to be making cycling look as inviting as a timeshare in Tripoli. Councils across the land are continuing to build pitiful infrastructure whether cycle campaigners want it or not and the Local Transport Fund is not going to help that – if anything it will only encourage them to paint more bicycle symbols on pavements. The Monday before the Bike Ride, I wrote a blog post for the new Cycling Mobility magazine outlining my views on this and more here.

What I really cannot understand is why this country continues to ignore the Netherlands and Denmark – countries that have had proven success in creating bicycle cultures, that have made lots of mistakes since the 1970′s when developing its infrastructure and learnt from them now using a mixture of solutions to achieve modal shares we can only dream of over here if we continue the way we are. Maybe I should have asked Norman Baker on the study tour I’m going on in September.

The day after I was commuting to work and the puncture fairy visited me..

Bicycle repair in Shoreham by Sea

 In a former life I would have thrown my arms in the air, sworn a lot, replaced the inner tube as to engage in repair would lose valuable time in my cycling rat race (time was always against me when I cycled quicker for some reason), sworn again as I get grease from the chain and derailleur onto my work clothes in my super dooper courier bag etc etc. This time I just set about the gentle art of bicycle repair, reminded by the advice given to me by Stefan Petursson when I purchased the bike from Amsterdammers in Brighton. The conversation went like this;

Stefan: (put on your best Icelandic/Dutch accent here) ‘you know the best way to repair punctures on a Dutch Bike?’

Me: (put on your sexiest British accent here) ‘No’

I was at this point expecting to hear some incredible tip known only by the Dutch Peoples – maybe something treasured & carried over from generation to generation by word of mouth

Stefan: We pump the inner tube up like so…….and we listen.

I closed my eyes in a half wince/half flinch way. This advice was of course nothing new to me. But in that instant it made me realise that I had been taking the commute far too seriously with all the kit and speed and competitiveness and the subscription to Cycling Plus. By buying an upright utilitarian bike, I had yet to realise that things were about to get a lot slower and far more interesting. Again, this is not to discredit other forms of cycling as we are all part of one big family. But since riding the Dutch Bike my life has become simpler and cheaper and more spontaneous with more freedom and time for thought as a result. Exactly as cycling should be.

Lancing Beach just off NCN2 looking back toward Worthing. I can think of worse commutes.

Obviously they are not everyone’s cup of tea but quite why we ignore Dutch & Danish bikes (and indeed classic British roadsters too) as well as their infrastructure standards is quite beyond me. In the UK, mudguards are still regarded as an accessory! In Wimbledon Fortnight!! Madness, I tell you.

The Local Transport White Paper – Soft and Very, Very Long

Fetch it cyclists! Go on, fetch the stick!

So the Department for Transport has released a Local Transport White Paper entitled ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon – Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen’

This 99 page document mentions the word ‘cycling’ a stonking 88 times.

It’s filled with nice stuff. Here is the Introduction;

‘Two-thirds of all journeys are under five miles – many of these trips could be easily cycled, walked or undertaken by public transport. We want to make travelling on foot, by bike or on public transport more attractive. Our work indicates that a substantial proportion of drivers would be willing to drive less, particularly for shorter trips, if practical alternatives were available (British Social Attitudes Survey, 2009). That is what this White Paper is about – offering people choices that will deliver that shift in behaviour, in many more local journeys, particularly drawing on what has been tried and tested. ‘

Not bad eh? Here are some more examples;

‘Encourage sustainable local travel and economic growth by making public transport and cycling and walking more attractive and effective, promoting lower carbon transport and tackling local road congestion.’

‘Cycling and walking offers an easy way for people to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. The importance of active travel is also emphasised in the Department of Health’s Public Health White Paper (Department of Health, 2010)’

‘Often there are a number of other potential benefits from sustainable transport schemes e.g. greening local transport corridors to encourage walking and cycling may also reduce the heat island effect in towns, improve air quality, provide valuable space for sustainable urban drainage, increase biodiversity in towns and increase the value of neighbourhoods. When devising transport solutions it is important that opportunities to realise wider benefits such as these are identified and properly considered.’

‘Cycling can make men look incredible, especially that Jim Davis with his physical sleekness and prowess (Worthing Herald 2011).’

Oh, alright. I made that last one up.

With all this dynamic language, you feel quite excited as you read through more bits like this;

‘For short distance travel, the challenge is to make the least carbon intensive modes – walking, cycling or public transport – the most attractive options’.

Yeah!

‘Cycling and walking present an easy and cheap way for people to incorporate physical activity in their everyday lives. As well as the health benefits, they offer other benefits when they replace vehicle trips, including reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and reducing congestion.’

Yeah, yeah!

However, then we come to the small matter of the finance to back this bold vision. Cycling, as you know all too well dear reader, receives the thin end of the wedge even when times are good. The document leads you on a bit, like a man trying to end a relationship face to face until eventually we get to a nice box outlining how good Cycling Demonstration Towns are. There’s something written in tiny, tiny print at the bottom that the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall enlarge for you,

‘Note: Future funding for cycling will go through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. £13 million has been set aside in 11/12 as a transitional arrangement to fund links to schools, Bike Club, Bike It as well as Living Streets Walk to School campaign and the Cycle Journey Planner. These are discussed further at paragraph 5.14.’

I’ll take you to paragraph 5.14 [and the rest of the gory detail]

5.14 The Department for Transport will support Bikeability for the remainder of this Parliament – until 2015. The focus of Government support for Bikeability will be on providing children the opportunity to receive training when at school. By providing training in year 6 of primary school, the Government will give children the chance to develop a life skill, enable more safe journeys to schools and encourage physical activity – which is good for children’s health. In addition, fewer school journeys by car mean less traffic on the road in rush hour and lower carbon emissions. The training is already popular amongst parents and children, and over 90 local authorities and many Schools Sports Partnerships are delivering it in their area.

5.15 Local authorities will be encouraged to integrate Bikeability fully into their local transport planning. Better cycling routes, cycling parking and adult training are just some examples of local authority measures that could supplement and amplify the impact of Bikeability in their area.

Funding for cycling and walking measures in 2011/12

5.16 The Government believes there is benefit in continuing to fund the Links to Schools programme in 2011/12. This is a transitional arrangement while the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is established. Links to School is a programme run and administered by Sustrans, a national charity, and provides safe walking and cycling routes to schools. The extra year’s funding will enable additional routes to be provided and will complement relevant cycling and walking programmes funded through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund as well as the Bikeability scheme.

More drivel on pavements then.

5.17 We are also funding Cycle Journey Planner in 2011/12 as well as Bike Club, Bike It and Living Streets’ Walk to School Campaign. This funding will enable a smooth transition from the 2010/11 programme to a point where the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is operational. Funding for the Cycle Journey Planner will allow completion of the surveying of all urban areas with a population of 30,000 and will provide local authorities and the public with a ready made journey tool at a national level (England) to help plan cycle journeys.

Or, maps as they used to be called. Unless I’m misunderstanding the situation, this to me does not help people that don’t have access to the internet, or feel intimidated about using it. The same people that probably don’t have access to a car either.

5.18 From 2012 onwards, local authorities may choose to support Links to Schools through their bids to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Councils are facing massive cuts and this puts cycling in an extremely precarious situation indeed. Cycling England had a meagre £60 million to spend each year. The pot has unbelievably got smaller and it takes 99 pages to explain this. I don’t believe that County Cycling Officer is the most secure position in any Council and it will be eerily fascinating to see how many are dropped, along with funding for Bike It officers.

It is the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ of White Papers – great build up but ultimately falls way short on delivery. This is the Department for Transport yet again holding sustainable transport solutions at arms length to detract from the greater levels of funding being handed over to road building schemes and feasibility studies for High Speed Rail 2. Philip Hammond doesn’t feature in this document, it is down to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker MP to introduce and publish it.

There needs to a comprehensive reform of cycle infrastructure design and implementation in this country otherwise all these schemes and airy fairy initiatives will come to nothing.  As discussed before on this blog and indeed elsewhere, you can train all the people you like to cycle, and even experience a slight rise in numbers, but if the roads look dangerous, then the numbers will fall again and the expense would have been in vain. There’s a reason cycling is flatlining at between 3-4% and this document doesn’t address it directly in any way. And metal boxes will continue to whizz through communities, indifferent to the pollution and safety issues that they pose. We need infrastructure standards based on the Dutch model with other best practice from Denmark and around the World. We should do this as a supposedly civilised democracy – giving more people more mobility.

Casting cycle funding out to the provinces also negates the need for the Government to have any rational debate on cycling at national level, particularly with the demise of Cycling England. Once again the stick has been thrown and now it is down to local campaign groups and individuals to obediently chase and fight for it.

They deserve better. We all deserve better.

Here is yet another video of people going about their day on bicycles but this time in the snow.

The Anti-Cycle Campaigning Cycling Campaign

Believe it or not, there is no link between
this and riding your bike to the library

Firstly, I hope that all Lo Fidelity Readers had a delightful Christmas and New Year. My first one as a parent involved a lot of personal admin, particularly at the nappy changing mat so apologies that this is my first post in a while. The Guardian recently published an article that interested me.

The government’s flagship training scheme for young cyclists is hugely popular with both children and parents, according to a study, boosting the chances that it will survive funding cuts despite the abolition of the quango which currently runs it. A total of 98% of parents said they were happy with the Bikeability scheme, launched three years ago as a replacement for the defunct cycling proficiency test, according to an Ipsos/Mori poll carried out for the Department for Transport (DfT). Three quarters said they were “very satisfied” with the training. Among children who had used the scheme it gained 96% approval.’

I was under the impression that Bikeability funding was going to be ringfenced in some way as part of the Coalition Governments ‘commitment to cycling’ (despite ending Cycling England in March this year) along with it’s other policies such as investment in electric cars and bigger roads and cutting funding for speed cameras. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that the Coalition Government should just have the stones at Stonehenge rearranged to spell ‘Screw You Cyclists’. It’s a cheaper way of expressing how they really feel and would also be a fitting tribute to the Iron Age hill fort that got replaced by the M3 Twyford Down Enhancement.

Anyway, what interested me was it’s very high popularity amongst children and parents. This obviously demonstrates a desire for people to ride bikes. Not cycling in the pure British sense of the word. Just kids wanting to get on bikes and gain a new skill and freedom – after all, they don’t have to just ride between home and school, particularly when there are friends to see and things to do. This kind of thing also pleases the cycle campaigning establishment – it means that there will be lots of new cyclists to help achieve some sort of Critical Mass where everyone else will wake up from it’s collective amnesia and discover cycling again, particularly if taught the right skills.

There’s a fundamental flaw in this. The cycle campaigning establishment seems to have a collective amnesia about the colossal rise in car use over the last few decades. The parents won’t let their children cycle to school unless it’s on the pavement as the roads are too dangerous. All Bikeability is probably achieving is teaching children to ride bikes around Centre Parcs and Mountain Bike Centres in the school holidays (where they are driven to).

The Highways Departments in County Councils are always happy to oblige by painting cycle symbols on pavements and calling them Safe Routes To Schools. The thing is, what about people of all ages considering riding a bike to the shops, or the local sports centre, or to meet friends at the pub but feel that it’s too dangerous to do so? One answer might be to ask the utterly car-sick Highways Departments to paint bicycle symbols on all pavements because that’s where we’re headed anyway, or we could have what cycle campaigners have failed to ask for over the last few decades which is decent infrastructure using best practice from the Netherlands and Denmark.

The Dutch Bicycle Masterplan notes that cycle use suffered a massive decline due to
car-centric policy up to the 1970’s when two things occurred that triggered change; the OPEC fuel crisis and deep concerns about road safety, particularly children trying to get to school. Unlike the Government here however, the Netherlands correctly identified that the big metal boxes were the problem and acted accordingly by raising car parking fees and designing the impact of motoring out of populous areas. Decent cycle Infrastructure was not created for cyclists, it was created for the population at large to carry out their business without the need for helmets or high viz or breakneck aggressive speed. It’s not always perfect, but they managed a modal share that campaigners can only dream of over here.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, campaigns like ‘20’s Plenty’ only work when they are specifically NOT made Cycle Campaigns. The public needs to discover the joys of walking and cycling for themselves again, just as they are allowed to do with events such as the Skyride. With the promise of a safe pootle around the streets of Central London, people of all ages grabbed bicycles out of sheds and turned up in their droves. Provide the facilities and they will come. And we have the money out there to do it.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that this should be the same when campaigning for decent infrastructure in the Dutch model. This is not just about improving life for cyclists – this is about benefiting society as a whole and is why I set up the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to try a new approach. This is about creating decent infrastructure so you may accompany your children to school without having heart palpitations as an HGV sails past too close and too quick. This is about wanting to lose a few pounds and coincidentally trying a healthier way of getting to the post office. We must not be anti-car (most adult cyclists are motorists
too). We must let the people reach their own conclusions to create a culture change, after all, up until now they decided that they weren’t going to cycle anymore as the roads are too dangerous without realising that as motorists, they are part of the overall problem. And there’s the realisation that they don’t have to wear lycra. At all. Ever. Above all, the motor car has its place, but the people must come first.

As far as the Cycle Campaigning Establishment is concerned, I will leave you with this stunning post by Freewheeler at Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest. The statement from Cyclenation beggars belief.

Soon we will have VAT increases to compound already record high fuel prices and thousands of people continue to be killed and seriously injured on our roads each year. This has to be our time for change. I would like to also take this opportunity to thank all those who have expressed support for the Embassy. I look forward to hopefully meeting a few of you in London on January 29th.

Living the Dream

Wow, Ambassador! The DfT only handed out Digestives....

Firstly, I would like to thank all those who messaged me on this blog or emailed me privately expressing their support for the idea of an independent Cycling ‘Embassy’ for Great Britain. Whatever happens, it will be based upon the Cycling Embassy of Denmark as I believe we need the same model here in the UK. The ball has already started rolling and a volunteers forum will be starting up as an information exchange/meeting point. The URL has been confirmed and I shall release details shortly (thanks very much to a very willing and able volunteer. The first of many :-) ).

An early Mission Statement is as follows

An Embassy, free from the burden of history, legacy and ties, created to work in partnership with fellow organisations and charities in Great Britain, mainland Europe and around the World trading ideas and experiences in how to promote cycling and make cycling infrastructure work in urban and rural contexts.

To develop relations with private companies already committed to Green & Sustainable values and promote the truth that cycling can produce a fitter, healthier, happier workforce saving billions in ‘sick’ days to the British economy.

To lobby relevant Government Departments that cycling is a solution to transport congestion, noise pollution, carbon emissions, deaths and serious injuries on our roads, obesity and illnesses from more sedentary lifestyles, stress and expense.

To politely correct the Department for Transport that ‘Sustainable Transport’ actually means walking, cycling and public transport as opposed to spending further millions on expanding the road network which will only sustain more pollution, deaths & serious injuries and congestion, like the decades that preceded. The idea is to make something sustainable for future generations to inherit.  A bigger M25 isn’t it.

To redefine what Road Safety in the UK means by working with relevant groups; to highlight what the real dangers are, to enforce a duty of care to the most vulnerable and promoting prevention, rather than cure. This will be through a raft of measures including reduced speed limits in urban areas and changes in streetscape design to put community needs before those just travelling through them. We will strive to create an environment where helmets and other forms of protective wear are seen as unecessary as opposed to essential. We will strive to make riding a bicycle as easy as riding a bicycle.

To work with local authorities and relevant parties to redefine Cycling Infrastructure Design Standards in the UK and bring them in line with best practice in partner countries. ‘Hierarchy of Provision’, although well-meaning and correct in principle is too open to abuse or compromise by practitioners that know little about the requirements of cycling (or indeed walking) yet may wish to know more.

To encourage better communication with exchange of knowledge and ideas between architects, transport planners, designers & engineers as to how to get more people cycling [and walking] and improving access for all to town & city centres and transport interchanges. Also working out what makes decent cycle infrastructure work and how it benefits society as a whole.

To protect cycling proficiency for children and adults. It is an essential skill that did us very well in the past, as it can again in the future.

To have fun. It’s why we started cycling in the first place.

Obviously I now throw the floor open to suggestions as it’s now or never. As I look out across the still snowy South Downs, I acknowledge that this is going to be a quiet month as far as cycling news and blogging is concerned which gives us a chance over the Christmas period to reflect on the wonderful cycling experiences we’ve all had through the changing seasons of 2010 and set out the stall for 2011.

I am firmly of the belief that there needs to be new way in cycle campaigning; this is not to say that what has gone before has failed. It is simply outmanoeuvred by a car lobby that can market itself as green when accused of polluting and portray itself as a victim when attempts are made to call it to account over danger and subsidy. Cycling England, for all its faults, cost approximately £200,000 p.a. to run. Honda’s ‘Impossible Dream’ advert alone cost £5 million. They really want to sell cars, even if no-one can actually afford them right now.

It’s time to cast off the lycra and put on the charm. More plans follow and please feel free to join me for the ride which may be painfully short or wonderfully long. The doors of the Embassy will be opening shortly and you are welcome if you wish, fellow Diplomats. But don’t nick all my Fererro Rocher, I don’t care if it is Christmas.

Resolution

Clearly its the trees fault. Maybe if it had High-Viz wrapped around it and.....

 

Firstly, apologies to Lo Fidelity readers about not posting as frequently as I should recently but my laptop broke and I pick it up from Mr Apple Repair Man tomorrow.

In my last post I suggested that along with the DfT, the Department for Health should also be lobbied as encouraging cycling would be of massive benefit to the nation’s health from tackling obesity to increasing general wellbeing.

Yesterday the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley published a White Paper outlining the Governments Public Health Strategy to create healthier lives and people which was given the snappy title of ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for Public Health in England’.

Cycling is mentioned a massive 4 times in its 95 pages and I outline the excerpts below;

3.20 (Page 35) ……This year, the Government is supporting walking and cycling in schools through the Department of Health’s Living Streets ‘Walk Once A Week’ initiative and the Department for transport’s (DfT) funding for Bikeability cycle training. We are working towards every child being offered high-quality instruction on how to ride safely and confidently by the end of year 6 in school.

3.32 (Page 39) Active travel and physical activity need to become the norm in communities. The Department for Health will support local areas by providing good evidence on how to make regular physical activity and healthy food choices easier for their populations, for example by sharing learning from the experiences of nine ‘Healthy Towns’, as well as sustainable travel and cycle towns. Initial evidence from the first round of cycle towns showed that there was an increase in cycling across all social groups combined with a reduction in sedentary behaviour and single car use, when compared to people in similar towns.

Workplace Cycle Challenge (page 47)

CTC, the national cyclists organisation, has led a pilot project to encourage people to cycle to work in Swindon as part of its Cycling Champions programme.

The Cycle Challenge works by encouraging and supporting existing cyclists to persuade colleagues who rarely or never cycle to give it a try. The Challenge was a competition open to all organisations in the Swindon area to get most staff to cycle for just 10 minutes or more. Whole organisations and individual workplaces were encouraged to sign up via the Challenge website – individual cyclists within those organisations could log their personal details and record how much cycling they did.

Overall 853 participants cycled 37,180 miles between them, of which around 35,000 miles were for transport purposes (ie non-recreational travel). It is estimated that they saved 3,157 litres of fuel and £3,630 in reduced motoring costs and burnt about 35 million kilojoules of energy. (www.swindoncyclechallenge.org.uk)

All very nice but at no point does it address the real reasons why people don’t cycle in the first place. At no point does it address the fact that the motor car is a major hazard to public health, in both urban and rural areas and yet nothing is being done to curb its use. You can teach all the children you like to cycle, but if the roads look dangerous outside the school gates then it counts for nothing. You can declare all the urban areas you like to be ‘Cycle Towns’, but if the councils that run them remain as car-sick as they are at present and the roads to town centres and transport interchanges look dangerous, then it counts for nothing. You can create all the ‘Workplace Challenges’ you like, but we are now at the point where many, many adults in the UK have probably never known the joys of cycling, and without training or decent routes for them to learn a new skill with the added freedom that it brings then it all counts for nothing. If road safety isn’t correctly addressed and the car finally named as the chief culprit, then people will continue to fall ill and die from sedentary lifestyles and dangerous roads and it will all be for nothing. Government Cycle policy is a bit like offering the flu jab as a cure but with people continuing to die from influenza because they are afraid of needles.

It’s the councils that should be a primary concern as, like the Sustainable transport budget, this new public health budget is going to also be thrown to the regions with a new body (‘Public Health England’…..yes, it does sound a bit familiar doesn’t it?) overseeing the spend. Much more detail is required as the White Paper is big on rhetoric, but low on detail. As we have already seen, Sustainable Transport can be thrown open to all sorts of interpretation from charging points to electric vehicles to trunk road upgrades to ‘improve traffic flow’ and ‘reduce emissions’. Expect to see some fascinating and very artistic interpretations of the term ‘Public Health’ over the coming months. From a County Councils perspective it will probably mean more ‘Pavement Upgrades’ outside Hospitals and Health Centres, bless them.

I’m setting myself a couple of New Years Resolutions;

  1. I’m trading in my Mountain Bike and buying a Dutch Style Roadster because I had no idea that this shop was open in Brighton. How it slipped under the Lo Fidelity Radar, I’ll never know. I want to do Lo Fidelity cycling, appease the nagging of a certain Dutch Cycle fan & local campaigning friend of mine and write about my findings.
  2. I want to establish a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, committed to forging partnerships with British & European partners, Architects & Urban Planners, attract funding from private companies and lobby all Government Agencies on how the benefits of cycling could save the country billions, make them look cooler and ‘well fit’ (if you talk that way) and make them feel better about themselves. I want to see the rule book on cycle infrastructure design guidance re-written as, although I believe the CTC is correct in principle on ‘Hierarchy of Provision’, it is too open to abuse by County Council Highways Departments. We have to adopt a more robust Dutch model that ‘disarms’ the motor car and creates a level playing field for walking and cycling (although the ‘20’s Plenty’ campaign is making great progress). I want to do this with increasing levels of help through the year as I have a day job, a wonderful wife and 7 month old son, and I would like it to stay that way.
  3. I would like to grow more vegetables and finally use that home brew kit I bought months ago.

The second resolution might be of interest to you. You can make it yours too if you like. If the Government can’t do joined up thinking for cyclists, then cyclists had better do it.

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