Posts Tagged ‘Local government’

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).

 

The Bristol Broadcast

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak on behalf of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain at a Scrutiny Committee held by Bristol City Council.

Sustrans were also there along with Dr Adrian Davis (Chair), Dr Fiona Spotswood of UWE & Ed Plowden of Bristol City Council.

I was speaking immediately after Dr Dave Horton, who was one of the team behind the excellent Understanding Walking & Cycling project last year (and blogs wonderfully about it too). I have given public talks on behalf of the Embassy before so I was not only extremely happy to put our view to Local Government, but also to the general public who attended – many of whom were probably gearing up for a nice juicy Local-Newspaper-Comments-With-A-Dash-Of-Jeremy-Vine-Show-And-A-Twist-Of-Daily-Mailathon. Many (particularly groups representing the Elderly) had a particular and justified grievance against that doyen of local media, the pavement cyclist.

They were a bit taken aback when I started showing them what has been achieved overseas. In my allotted 15 minutes, I was able to convey the fact that; bicycles, pedestrians & motorists don’t have to be in constant gladiatorial combat with the correct provision and planning, that the economies and societies of the Netherlands and Denmark did not plunge into anarchy or boarded up ruin by designing the private car out of town and city centres and that providing inviting conditions for walking and cycling as valued modes of transport means all ages and abilities can get around equitably and without fear or the need for safety wear to mitigate that fear. This to me is the mark of a civilized society.

It went down very well.

From This is Bristol

RESEARCHERS have called for improvements to cycling conditions in Bristol, which they say could solve the problem of cyclists using pedestrian walkways.

Speaking at a council meeting yesterday, they argued that safer cycling networks in the city will help to discourage cyclists from mounting the pavements.

Judith Brown, chairwoman of the Bristol Older People’s Forum, which has been campaigning against cyclists using pavements, attended the Sustainable Development and Transport Scrutiny Commission meeting. After the meeting she told the Post that the council should listen to what had been said and change its “inadequate” policy.

Five experts addressed the public meeting and backed an investment in infrastructure that would pull cyclists away from the pavements and avoid conflict.

Dr David Horton, a sociologist focusing on cycling, said that his research showed how potential cyclists were put off by “terrifying” road conditions. He said: “Too often words like ‘petrified’ and ‘terrified’ crop up in surveys when people are asked why they don’t cycle around town.

“In urban Britain, at the moment, we are really struggling to provide for cyclists. There’s a real mismatch between policy and practical work leading to improvements.”

Jim Davis, chairman of the cycling embassy of Great Britain, said that planners should look to examples in Europe, where the provisions for cyclists make travelling by bike more “normal”.

He added that the changes abroad had also led to less conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

Leading the debate, Adrian Davis, a public health and transport consultant, said: “There’s no doubt that the debate in the city is often very polarised. We want to move on from this by looking at the harsh realities.”

Following the meeting, Mrs Brown told the Post: “I think the council has to think seriously about its inadequate policy for all.

“As Bristol is a cycling city, the council must think how it accommodates them properly.

“What countries have done in Europe looks promising and it’s certainly worth thinking about how they can make life safer for everybody.

“I’m going to take this away to digest and tell my members.”

Mark Bradshaw, a Labour councillor and chairman of the cross-party commission, said: “What we are trying to do is get a bit more recognition and understanding about the cycling debate.

“Whether you are a cyclist or an elderly person, your views are just as important and valuable.

“As a commission, we want to share this with the rest of the council and with their officers.”

A common argument against having high quality cycle infrastructure is that there is ‘no political will’. That’s certainly true but political will comes from a mandate from the masses and how can the masses get behind something they don’t know about yet? The assembled audience had no idea what was being practiced abroad with proven success (why should they know?) and, when presented to them in a non-campaigning way that they could understand and buy into, they realised that if there had to be an ‘enemy’ it certainly wasn’t cyclists, pedestrians or motorists – it was the transport system we all have to navigate on a day-to-day basis. Society has simply been playing the cards that have been dealt them by successive Governments. And for decades the British deck has been stacked in favour of unfettered car use.

What the Netherlands did was to essentially prize apart the different modes of travel and put them back together into a coherent, integral whole. We seem light years away from even grasping the fact that, to make a decent, equitable, sustainable transport system you need to make the simple modes of transport simple and the complex modes of transport complex.  Convincing the British public that this works could be simpler than we think. We just have to give them the correct information for a start.

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

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What happens when you invest consistently & wisely in people who know what they’re doing

It is a wonderful time for sports cycling in Great Britain; Bradley Wiggins has become the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France with Chris Froome enjoying an equally unprecedented second place. The hard-working men and women of Team GB are no strangers to success in Olympic events and so it has proved in London with medals on the road and the track with performances to give inspiration to all.

Wonders like this don’t happen by accident as other nations are already comfortably aware; This was never about ‘plucky British underdog spirit’. This was about the right talent, the right coaching staff giving the right strategies, confidence and belief and the right mechanics working on the right machinery. Above all, what we have been witnessing over the last few years is what consistent and focussed investment actually looks like by people who know what they are doing and care.

Norman Baker MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport) proudly trumpets the fact that last January he announced the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to the tune of £560 million (which has recently been increased to £600 million) as well as £15 million specifically for cycling infrastructure projects at railway stations to link communities and centres of economic growth. He has also recently announced a further £15 million cycle safety fund to help local authorities deal with high risk junctions.

These are undoubtedly large sums of money. I have no trouble with Norman Baker MP, nor do I doubt his overall commitment to cycling. However, I do have trouble with the fact that Local Authorities have been bidding for this money and are going to oversee the spending of this money. Put simply, the Government is giving sums of money for ‘Active Travel’ projects to people who largely haven’t a clue about the benefits of cycling as a mode of transport or don’t actually care about cycling as it gets in the way of more ‘serious’ modes of transport. Moreover, cycling design guidelines at local level are treated with the same professionalism and reverence as Dr Seuss, and The Netherlands or Denmark with their proven success are regrettably filled with foreigners so, apparently, nothing they do must ever be considered, let alone copied. As a result, we end up with what we’ve seen for many years; inconsistent and unfocused investment by people who don’t really know what they are doing or don’t care.

What happens when you invest sporadically and unwisely in people who don’t know what they’re doing and/or with Councillors who don’t care (Photo: Warrington Cycle Campaign’s ‘Facility of the Month’)

I don’t see this as a recipe for the same delirious success as Team GB.

To be fair, there are Local Authorities that are trying to ‘get it’ as far as cycling is concerned and are very proactive. Even trying to see things from a Dutch perspective like my neighbouring Authority of Brighton & Hove.

In a way, it is good that Local Authorities have had to bid for pockets of money. By tendering for funding, we get to see the projects that they have in mind and therefore some sort of benchmark for local active travel groups to monitor (hopefully, they would also have been involved in the consultation). The problem lies in the precedents already set by Local Authorities which are a bit lacking in qualityActually, most are appalling. Generally, the only time bicycle infrastructure works well in Britain is more by accident than by design; usually a converted pre-Beeching railway line or upgraded coastal path or promenade. Even then, because we never seem to be able to think in terms of network and linking stuff, people will often drive to it with their families if it offers the premise of inviting, quality traffic-free cycling.

The simple fact is that nice things cost money and, funnily enough, that includes cycle infrastructure. Why not pay more for a network based on principles of proven success such as The Netherlands and Denmark that people can and would actually use. It has to be better than our current sporadic and, by comparison to Mainland Europe, amateur looking attempts to solve a car-choked problem that has become too big to solve with pockets of cash dotted around Local Authorities that clearly need better guidance from Central Government on how to spend it.

This has to be bad because Jonny Foreigner thought of it.

If this country can even begin to consider schemes such as High Speed Rail, or an entirely new airport for London, then there is no reason why we can’t consider thinking big in terms of providing a consistent quality network for the bicycle with its excellent rate of return in terms of  jobs, transport, health & well-being, greater freedom and subjective safety – especially for more vulnerable sections of society, increased social safety and reduced emissions. If Local Authorities are going to be the agencies providing it (which I’m not actually against believe it or not), then the guidance and funding from central government has to also be high quality, strong and consistent. Nice things cost money, even for a mode of transport so simple, egalitarian and cheap.

Believe it or not, a decent bicycle network can be cheaper than a sodding great airport built in the path of migrating birds

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.

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.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hammond?

Don't Panic!

As the chilly Autumnal mists clear, the World of British cycle campaigning finds that not only have the goalposts been moved, but the playing field has been sold off as well.

Road.cc report can be found here

Yesterday I posted the initial DfT Press Release regarding the Spending Review. However, further detail seemed to emerge in the form of Annexes to the original statement (they may have come out at the same time in fairness, I don’t wish to speculate). Below are the key points that effect cycling;

Local Sustainable Transport Fund
We are establishing a £560 million local sustainable transport fund to challenge local authorities outside London to bid for funding to support packages of transport interventions that support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions in their communities as well as delivering cleaner environments and improved air quality, enhanced safety and reduced congestion.

This replaces a range of previous grants for sustainable forms of travel. It represents a significant increase in funding for sustainable travel, which the Government believes can both support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

Responding to calls from local government, the Fund will include a mix of £350m revenue and £210m capital funding over the next four years to maximise the toolkit of options available to local authorities

A small proportion of the fund will be allocated to provide continued funding for the successful Bikeability scheme, which offers high quality cycle training for young people. For the remainder of the funding, we will invite local authorities to develop packages of low cost, high value measures which best meet their local needs and effectively address local issues.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club deduces that, as opposed to cycle training being brought in-house as was inferred before, it is being cast out across the provinces, where car-centric Local Authorities are already having to make massive cuts to their own budgets. A harsh winter will ensure that any cycling budget will be swallowed up in pothole repair, which is exactly what happened to the West Sussex cycling budget before the spending cuts. Cycling projects won’t have any dedicated funding but be lumped together as ‘sustainable transport’ – we’re being told to sing for our supper basically.

It would be fair to conclude that ‘reducing emissions’ will mean clearing traffic bottlenecks with ‘improved engineering’ and shovelling cyclists off the roads on well-intentioned but appallingly designed infrastructure such as shared use pavements. Again.

Environment
….The functions of the Renewable Fuels Agency are being transferred to the Department for Transport. The DfT will work with the RFA to consider how best to achieve this transition and to ensure that potential administrative savings are realised.

This has allowed us to focus financial support on key priorities that will reduce transport emissions and support low carbon economy growth. These include:

- Making provision for over £400m for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicle technologies. These include:

- supporting consumer incentives for electric and other low emission cars throughout the life of this Parliament. We will continue to monitor the most effective way to deliver this investment, with the first review of the Plug In Car grant in 2012;

- continued investment in electric vehicle recharging infrastructure (Plugged In Places);
- research and development.
- Supporting the key elements of the carbon-saving transport programmes that are delivered by the Energy Saving Trust and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, while working with both organisations to achieve efficiencies. Details will be confirmed shortly.

Believe it or not, the majority of us already own at least two modes of low carbon transport.  To locate the first, simply look down. Then you can use that low carbon form of transport to go and get another form of low carbon transport, your bicycle!  No mass building of power stations or carbon intensive construction of ultra low carbon cars with its required infrastructure necessary. If this country put its trust in walking and cycling for a change, at least this country won’t completely shut down in a power cut.  

Road Safety
As part of the simplification and radical devolution of local government finance, the Coalition Government will no longer be providing a specific ring-fenced grant to support road safety delivery and enforcement – including camera enforcement – at local level. This funding stream is being wrapped up into the wider local government funding settlement, and allocated by formula. These reforms will give greater autonomy and flexibility to local authorities in deciding how best to tackle their road safety problems. Additionally, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will offer local authorities the opportunity to bid for funding for schemes offering safety as well as other local benefits.

Nationally, we are reducing the resources allocated to road safety research and marketing, distributing more of the available money instead for use in local targeted initiatives. We will reduce the THINK! budget by £12m per annum by 2014/15, so we will be focusing national marketing activity on those road users which represent the highest risks to others, and for whom a marketing approach is proven to be effective. We will also be making full use of lower cost mechanisms – such as social networking and the new educational courses – to target delivery cost-effectively and working closely with commercial partners to communicate key road safety messages. This approach has already proved successful; for example, 32,000 motorcyclists have joined a THINK! BIKER Facebook page launched earlier this year.

Motorised traffic isn’t a road safety problem in the eyes of DfT. If it can be said that ‘an Englishmans home is his castle’, it’s even more so with his motor car. All those that choose to joust with him on a bicycle will be expected to wear a full set of armour.

 The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club suggests that the DfT should embrace social media by repeatedly putting out the following message on Twitter, ‘Don’t look at this. Concentrate on the road’. That should help motorists. Until they get distracted by the radio.

It would be easy to write an apocalyptic conclusion from all this. The major cycling organisations have until March 2011 to work out where their cycling strategies go from here. However, cycling will never go away, as hard as Mr Hammond may try. We have to remain focussed on the DfT, and higher up with part-time cyclist David Cameron (to be fair it must be difficult to get out these days) until someone sees sense that cycling, walking and improved access benefits all as opposed to the macho big business posturing of High Speed Rail (which will only benefit larger towns and cities as opposed to the countryside it will machete through) or making roads even more unusable for those wishing not to travel by private car. 

In the spirit of private enterprise and franchising, the Low Fidelity Bicycle Club recommends that we invite Fietsberaad to take over sustainable transport infrastructure guidance as no-one in the DfT or Local Authorities can design anything properly.

Above all, stay happy and keep singing

..Ms Pendleton goes off to town on Reynolds 531
She does it ‘cos it’s quicker
and she’s knows it’s way more fun

So who do you think you are kidding Mr Hammond,
if you think old cycling’s done

(with sincere apologies to Bud Flannigan!)

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 4 – Highways Departments & Cycling Officers

St. Ig – The Patron Saint of County Council Highways Departments

WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS AN OFFENSIVE ACRONYM

In the same way that the Department for Transport had Cycling England to keep at arms length at national level, so it holds with Highways Departments and Cycling Officers at County Council level.

From a cycle campaigning perspective, Highways Officers are often like Mrs Mainwaring in Dad’s Army; often spoken of but never seen. You will however be familiar with their work all around you from stunning seaside paths to safe, direct town centre links. You get the chance to comment when these incredible schemes have already been designed and programmed to be built. This is called ‘consultation’ to compliment their range of extensive sustainable strategy consultation solutions, as we have seen before.

You may be lucky enough in your campaign group to get a visit from the County Cycling Officer. This role has to be the most tragic in Local Government; if they were put anywhere else in the World of cycling, they would be a valuable asset as they are usually very nice, proactive people with an exhaustive knowledge of cycling infrastructure. They probably thought they could join their council with a view to changing things for the cycling good before encountering deeply car-centric Local Councillors and a Highways Department that sees cycling infrastructure as something poor people or vegans with a fetish for beads might use. The job role ends up being a combination of Harbinger of Doom and Eunuch. They are sent to cycling forums and meetings for the following reasons;

  • to explain why the crappy scheme set out before you is being built and why you should consider yourselves lucky to have it.
  • because the highways departments know that the schemes are crap and can’t be bothered to hear feedback, however constructive, for future schemes as cyclists demands will only push project costs up and goes against their training.
  • to explain why the entire cycling budget has been cut and is now reliant on Developers money.
  • to tell you why your hopes and dreams of a modal shift toward to cycling using proven continental methods will never happen. This will be told with a simmering, but castrated fury (Male Officers) or a simmering, but close to tears look (Female Officers).

It would be wrong to say that all Highways Departments are hostile to cycling and walking; some are certainly hostile, but many simply don’t know how to cater for other non-motorised transport modes (that ironically were there first). Cycling doesn’t fit into their engineering education with all its computer generated models and road enhancement guidelines. As a result, they shovel cyclists off the roads onto converted pavements, thinking they are doing the right thing in the name of road safety, without taking any road space from motorists. Cycling, as a result, becomes more dangerous and unappealing to the masses. Cyclists choosing to remain on the roads (that they also pay for) sometimes get verbal or physical abuse from motorists and simply face a more dangerous road environment due to motorists not expecting anything else to be there.

In summary, I like to affectionately call them Councils Utilising Negligent Transport Schemes and I think you should too. A wonderful example of Councils Utilising Negligent Transport Schemes may be found in Waltham Forest and for Councils Utilising Negligent Transport Schemes at their worst across the UK, you must visit Pete Owen’s magnificent compilation for Warrington Cycle Campaign here.

Deepest apologies for the harsh acronym. But I’m right.

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 3 – The Cycling Action Travel Plan Integrated Strategy Solution

Sometimes a dog will gnaw away at something it shouldn’t. I’ve found that the best way to distract the dog is to find a nice stick and throw it, instantly releasing the thing that you don’t want gnawed. This is basically the same attitude that the Government & Local Authorities take with cycle campaigners.

The stick in this case is usually a document that either ends in ‘Action Plan’, ‘Strategy’, ‘Travel Plan’ or that perennial favourite, the Local Transport Plan (LTP). Cycle campaigners sometimes get very excited by such documents. Some will even have copies of the original ‘Action Plan’ or ‘Strategy’. These will often be between 10 and 20 years old and incredibly long and verbose with pictures of people in stonewash jeans on Raleigh touring or shopper bikes.

When I worked at CTC, there used to be regular meetings where we would all discuss what was happening in each department and what was happening in the wider World of cycling. Although I have the utmost respect and admiration for Roger Geffen (CTC Campaigns Director), my heart would sink when he would enthusiastically outline CTC’s involvement in the latest Government Cycling Strategy or 10 Year Plan. If I closed my eyes I could hear the Ministers saying ‘fetch the stick cyclists! Fetch! Go on! Over there!

Some of you may have just responded to your local authorities Local Transport Plan (or LTP3). This document will mention the word ‘sustainable’ quite a lot along with the usual airy fairy commitment to reducing carbon and regeneration. However, you will realise as you read further that to a Highways Department, this is best achieved by sorting out traffic bottlenecks to ease congestion on their strategic road network – in essence, not looking at the sheer amount of cars as a problem and using engineering to try and arrive at a solution. In the past, it would have been Bypasses, Inner Relief Roads and the stunning decision that dual carriageways in town and city centres would be a good idea to relieve congestion. Nowadays, with reduced budgets, it just involves expensive consultation fees and tinkering around the edges.

These documents will mention cycling in the same way that Samuel Beckett mentioned Godot. It will use phrases such as ‘upgrading infrastructure’ and ‘linking networks in town centres’ in a beautifully ethereal way but won’t actually commit to reducing car space in favour of walking and cycling, which is the solution.

As far as cycle infrastructure is concerned, there needs to be a concerted push for a National Standard based preferably on the Dutch model, which favours better streetscape design and segregated facilities where appropriate – basically giving the streets back to the residents. Until then we should be telling Local Authorities NOT to proceed with any more Cycle Paths or Shared Use Facilities as they are nearly always badly compromised by developers and Highway Departments’ agendas and designed by Rolf Harris on ecstasy.

Can you tell what it is yet? (Picture from Weird Cycle Lanes of Brighton & Hove)

For the moment, like Beckett’s famous characters, we’re left waiting, being treated like tramps on the roadside for an answer that will never appear if we continue with this drivel. Until the next round of Local Transport Plan Consultation or Government Cycling Action Travel Strategy, of course! Maybe THIS time will be different!!

So Long, And Thanks For All The Pish

 

Flipper: Charming, funny, been dead for decades and still more familiar to the public than Cycling England

Last Friday, road.cc reported that Cycling England now looks certain to be abolished as part of a Government cull on quangos (or ‘quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations’ to give them their full snappy title).

Christian Wolmar, writer, broadcaster and member of the board of Cycling England anticipated this by writing a very strong open letter to Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport outlining why he thinks this is a very bad idea. He outlined the fact that Cycling England runs cycling proficiency in schools and various projects across the country on a pathetically small budget annual budget of £60m (other transport modes get £15.36bn) and a lot of help of volunteers. All strong stuff but I bet Norman Baker MP thought exactly the same thing as I did;

Christian Wolmar is part of Cycling England??!!

I’d imagine that hardly anyone outside the cycling World knows that Cycling England even exists and cares even less what it stands for. Cycling England, like CTC are great for the already converted but utterly crap at projecting out to the non-cycling  public who couldn’t give a hoot what a Cycling Demonstration Town is, or indeed how cycling would benefit them.

Cycling England was never going to set the World alight on a meagre budget of £60m per annum (Honda’s ‘Impossible Dream’ advert cost £4.5m alone for perspective). Above all, if Cycling England is a Quango then its foundations were always going to be shaky. Despite having origins far earlier, Quangos will be seen as a Blairite Government mechanism and detested by the public at the best of times (despite many of them doing deeds very much to the public good).  The point of this post is that I believe there must be wholesale reform of the Department for Transport with sustainable transport modes not only being brought ‘in house’ but also receiving a far more integrated share of the transport spend.

Cambridge Cycle Campaign has set up a website (savecyclingengland.org) to bring attention to Cycling England’s good works and to appeal against its abolition. Listed below are the key points:

  • Bikeability: …. the nationwide cycle training scheme, teaching children (benefiting around 300,000 per year) and adults to cycle safely and responsibly, at a time when there is an enormous need to encourage healthy lifestyles, promote safe use of roads, and give children freedom;
  • Cycling Demonstration Towns: Enabling over 2.5m people in 18 towns around the country to benefit from considerably increased levels of infrastructure funding to make roads safer and cycle-friendly, to get more people on their bikes;
  • Health-related projects to promote cycling as a means of addressing the obesity epidemic and tackling sedentary lifestyles;
  • Professional support for Local Authorities to ensure that practitioners on-the-ground get cycling right;
  • Creating design standards and guidance available to highway engineers;
  • Railway/cycling integration, getting train companies to take cycling seriously
  • Events and projects all around the country (including Bike Week), ranging from education initiatives, promoting cycling to minority groups, travel planning for businesses and much more.

All fairly good points until you realise that cycling as an overall transport mode still languishes in its single figure percentage glory. I would like to tentatively make the following points;

  • A personal preference this, but return the name ‘Bikeability’ back to ‘Cycling Proficiency’ so the public instantly knows what it is. This is, after all, a country that still thinks ‘Road Tax’ exists and I’ve never heard cycle training referred to by the general public as ‘Bikeability’. Also, if it can be claimed that ‘Bikeability’ brings cycle training up to the 21st century, how about the DfT giving new cyclists safer, 21st century roads or decent segregated cycle infrastructure based on a Dutch model to cycle on? Otherwise parents will never let children out on their bikes and gain some freedom, fitness and fresh air as it continues to be perceived as a dangerous activity.
  • Drop the Cycling Demonstration Town nonsense in favour of national policy. Otherwise the money will continue to be swallowed up by Councils desperate to plug other holes in their budgets or ‘Consultancy Fees’.  If Brighton & Hove is a ‘Cycling Demonstration Town’, then Milton Keynes is an ‘Architectural Treasure Trove’.
  • There must be proper design guidance on cycling infrastructure based on more robust models (such as the Netherlands). This is not a push to create a fully segregated cycle network but where Cycling Infrastructure is installed it has to meet minimum criteria, that is way and above the dangerous and appalling standards we have currently. Above all the Department for Transport has to integrate sustainable transport into its remit and stop using car-centric policies, particularly for urban areas (for example, favouring blanket 20mph speed limits across residential areas thereby linking the generally ignored School Zones with the streets that children are going to be walking and cycling in from).
  • There needs to be far better promotion of the benefits of walking and cycling. This should be coordinated better with other Government Departments such as the Department for Health – instead of health professionals banging on about things they don’t know, such as the misguided belief that sticking helmets on people will solve everything, they can bang on about things that they do know, such as cycling being a healthy activity.
  • I thought railway/cycle integration meant being able to take a bicycle on a train to allow passengers (sorry, customers) to get to their destination door to door with minimum fuss – One transport mode complimenting another to increase scope and versatility. The railway companies however believe that putting up cycle racks at stations is the only answer and gets them off the hook, whilst praying that everyone buys a Brompton. Rail companies will never take cycling seriously until it becomes a condition of the franchise or is legislated.
  • I believe that every time Philip Hammond releases a report or statement, it must be called ‘The Hammond Organ’.

We needn’t push for the last one.

In summary, I don’t doubt at all the fantastic abilities and knowledge of Christian Wolmar, or indeed Phillip Darnton, the very amiable Chairman of Cycling England. I just think its time for cycling to stop being treated at arms length by a Government Department that hasn’t a clue what sustainable transport or road safety is yet is in its best interests to do so if it’s to achieve anything close to integration. The good folk of Cycling England and all cyclists across England and the rest of the British Isles deserve far better than the current structure.

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 1 – ‘Section 106 Money’

 

Please Sir, I want more crappy cycle infrastructure.

 

Yesterday evening I attended a local cycle campaign meeting where we were lucky enough to have the County Cycling Officer present. She kept quoting ‘Section 106 monies’ for cycling schemes as there clearly isn’t a direct budget for cycling at the moment.

In case you may have attended cycle forums or meetings yourself and heard this phrase without fully understanding what it means, or you’re curious to find out how cycling budgets really work, I’ll try and define it below.

Wikipedia Definition

‘Section 106 (S106) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. The obligation is termed a ‘Section 106 Agreement’.

These agreements are a way of delivering or addressing matters that are necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms. They are increasingly used to support the provision of services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.

..Matters agreed as part of a S106 must be:

  • relevant to planning
  • necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms
  • directly related to the proposed development
  • fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development 
  • reasonable in all other respects.

A council’s approach to securing benefits through the S106 process should be grounded in evidence-based policy. ‘

Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Definition

It allows a Council to shift its already meagre cycling budget to other more ‘pressing’ things (like pothole repair) with the promise of lots of Section 106 money for new facilities. Thus cycling infrastructure in many Local Authorities is at the mercy of pockets of cash dotted around the area, linked to where new developments are. If you’re lucky, they will try and build facilities that tie in with their ‘Cycling Strategy’, which might be an overly long, verbose document that’s woefully out of date  as they couldn’t commit funding or resource to update it.

When you start asking the Local Authority as to why you are just relying on Section 106 money they may launch into Middle Management spiel about cuts and times being hard. When you point out that cycling budgets were miniscule when times were good, there usually follows a bit of an awkward silence. If you are in a campaign group, the term ‘Section 106’ may have been used a lot recently, particularly when the recession first kicked in and the Local Authorities realised that they had a lot of capital tied up in Icelandic banks.

This type of funding is piecemeal at best and is just one of the wonderful reasons why we have the poorly designed, sketchy and dangerous infrastructure that exists currently.