Cycling England among 177 public bodies to be abolished, says Telegraph

One week before the Comprehensive Spending Review watch out for soapy babies. A lot of them will be thrown out with bathwaters in what is billed as the ‘bonfire of the quangos’. Cycling-related bodies facing the chop, apart from Cycling England, include British Waterways and the Commission for Integrated Transport. Even the Forestry Commission is at risk.

The Daily Telegraph claims to have seen a list of at-risk quangos. According to the Tory newspaper, Cycling England is on a list of 177 quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations which will be definitely scrapped.

UPDATE: The BBC has obtained the leaked Cabinet Officer letter in question. It’s in PDF form here. The letter says Cycling England is to be abolished but “transfer of functions to be confirmed.” In theory, this could mean some of the (few) staff employed by Cycling England could be absorbed by the Department for Transport.

The Forestry Commission is on a 94-strong list of public bodies “still under review” by the Coalition Government.

Whitehall insiders predict that the slash-and-burn policies will play well to those who wish for less state control but many of the functions currently carried out by quangos will not be replicated by central Government and will be too national in scope to be handled by local authorities. Once the experts on bodies such as Cycling England move on to other contracts, their skills and know-how will have to replaced, and this replication will likely cost much more to implement than simply keeping key quangos in the first place.

CTC is worried that the loss of Cycling England could put Bikeability at risk, too.

CTC Chief Executive Kevin Mayne, who also sits on the Cycling England board, said:

“Details are only emerging slowly, but there is real concern for the future of cycle training funding. It is likely that cycle training schemes will have to compete with other local sustainable transport initiatives such as walking and public transport, as there will no longer be a ring-fenced central pot.”

By local sustainable transport initiatives, Mayne meant the Government’s announcement earlier this week of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Sustrans is being positive about the new fund but is also worried it could be a smokescreen for wider cuts. Sustrans hopes the fund will incentivise local transport authorities to prioritise funding for sustainable transport schemes that enable more local journeys to be made on foot, bike and public transport in their Local Transport Plans. 

Peter Lipman, Sustrans’ Policy Director, said:

“The new fund must not be a smokescreen for wider cuts to sustainable transport investment. Given the current funding constraints government now has a historic opportunity to deliver smarter travel choices to millions of people.  Local authorities need to focus investment in low cost sustainable transport solutions that have proven health, environmental and economic benefits.

“We read continued reports of the potential disbanding of Cycling England and wait for details of the transfer of its functions. We believe the new fund should be designed to ensure that the benefits of Cycling England’s successful work are not lost.”

Earlier this month, transport journalist and Cycling England board member Christian Wolmar wrote a scathing open letter to Norman Baker, the minister responsible for cycling, urging him to save Cycling England. Cambridge Cycling Campaing created a website of the same name. And, today, Colchester Cycling Campaign has pitched in.

Will Bramhill, chairman of the Colchester Cycling Campaign, said:

“Without the funding that Colchester receives via Cycling England – which is carefully spent, and the results monitored – fewer people would be cycling, less safely, less often. In short, Cycling England works well and gives good value.

“The Cycling England money has put some towns in England on a par with the Netherlands on spending on cycling – for the first time. However, the Dutch expenditure has been nationwide and sustained over decades, helping them to maintain high levels of cycling. England is only just beginning to address a situation caused by 50 years of chronic neglect, caused in part by successive governments cow-towing to the motor lobby and spending accordingly.

“The team at Cycling England now has massive experience in their roles. Breaking up this group when it is working so well would be a tragedy.”

Babies. Bathwater. Bike funding. All at risk of going down the plughole.

DfT announces new sustainable transport fund…

…but fails to quash rumours it is to squish Cycling England.

Plans for a new Local Sustainable Transport Fund have been announced today by Local Transport minister Norman Baker.

The proposed fund will challenge local transport authorities outside London to develop packages of measures that support economic growth and reduce carbon in their communities as well as delivering cleaner environments, improved safety and increased levels of physical activity.  

The fund is rumoured to be the sop which will be wheeled out when the Coalition Government scraps a host of national schemes and quangos, such as Cycling England.

There’s no cash figure for the fund yet.

“Measures could include encouraging walking and cycling, initiatives to improve integration between travel modes and end-to-end journey experiences, better public transport and improved traffic management schemes,” said a statement from the Department for Transport.

The DfT also announced that, in line with its ‘localism agenda’, it intends to pool the centrally funded local transport grants to create fewer but larger funding streams.

If Cycling England is lost in the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ expected before the Comprehensive Spending Review, it’s expected Baker will say cycling schemes have to be funded locally, not nationally.

It’s believed Bikeability will continue to be supported by the Department for Transport.

Announcing the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, Baker said:

“It is at a local level that most can be done to change patterns of behaviour and encourage more sustainable travel, especially for short journeys. 

“And in an environment of tighter budgets and greater local flexibility, the Government is determined to reduce bureaucracy and make local transport funding more efficient.

“That is why we intend to pool the myriad of centrally funded local transport grants, to create fewer but larger funding streams, largely formula based, and a new Local Sustainable Transport Fund.”

It will be for local partnerships – local transport authorities working with their communities – to identify the right solutions for their areas which are financially robust and sustainable in the long term, said the DfT.

Funding for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will be set aside from within the Department’s overall funding allocation following conclusion of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Details about the new Fund, including the resources available and how it will operate, will be announced later in the year.

Norman Baker is the minister in charge of cycling within the DfT.

Cambridge is third best cycling city in England, says Campaign for Better Transport

In a new report from the Campaign for Better Transport, Nottingham and Manchester are, oddly, rated as better cycling cities than Cambridge.

The organisation’s Car Dependency Scorecard report used data from 17 different sources to rank the main 19 cities in England. A city’s cycle friendliness is one of the measurements used by the Campaign for Better Transport.

Nottingham is the least car-dependent city in England, closely followed by London and Brighton and Hove. The worst for dependency on the car are Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Luton.

The report is published as the Government considers massive cuts to local transport funding and is rumoured to be ready to abolish Cycling England, actions which could harm the ability of cities to reduce dependency on the car.

Ten years ago John Prescott launched Labour’s Transport 2010 strategy for transport which aimed to help local authorities to provide better and more integrated transport options. The Car Dependency Scorecard gives an indication of which local transport authorities have used the powers and funding effectively to improve transport in their city.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“Our report shows that for many people, car use is not a matter of choice but is due to other options just not being available. Factors such as lack of local facilities, poor public transport or bad conditions for cyclists and pedestrians can mean that people are reliant on a car, with congestion and pollution the result.

“There have been improvements in many cities, but cuts in government spending could harm these. City authorities must make sure that they prioritise their remaining funding on sustainable forms of transport and ensure that planning policies protect local shops and services.”

The Car Dependency Scorecard said: “Walking and cycling have many benefits which should make them popular options. Journeys undertaken are free, convenient, carbon-neutral and healthy, but despite this they are still underrepresented in our transport plans. As almost a quarter of all our journeys are under a mile, these could easily be walked or cycled rather than driven.

“Our attitude to the bike could be changing. Positive results from the National Travel Survey show that people are starting to see cycling as a serious alternative. The number of miles cycled on average last year increased by 10 per cent and bike sales have risen by more than 25 per cent in the past three years.

“City size also seems to be influential with smaller cities having a tendency for higher cycling and walking participation. People could be put off walking or cycling by regular longer commutes. The results showed that Cambridge, Nottingham and Manchester were the cities where the options of walking and cycling were best.

The Campaign for Better Transport praised the work of Cycling England, which created Cycling Demonstration Towns:

“Cycling Demonstration Towns have achieved significant results by promoting the benefits of cycling. As well as helping uptake by improving facilities, investment in promoting the ease and benefits of walking and cycling is also key to getting people interested.”

Cambridge came third in the report’s best cities for cycling because of plans for a hugely expensive new road, which will increase car dependency in Cambridge, predicted the Campaign for Better Transport:

“Cambridge has positive levels of cycling, matching European cities, making sure that most people in the city can get about without a car. However, Highways Agency plans for the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton, opposed by Cambridge City Council, would substantially increase traffic around the north of Cambridge, with a knock-on effect on walking and cycling levels.”

Campaign for Better Transport Ltd. is funded by bus companies, train operating companies, unions, councils and other such groups and organisations.

Investing in cycling pays big dividends, say experts

'This one runs on fat & saves you money' by Peter Drew of Adelaide

In a blistering attack on the Coalition Government’s expected abolition of Cycling England – a move that also puts at risk Bikeability cycle training – author and journalist Christian Wolmar urges transport minister Norman Baker to “stand up for what you believe in” and not risk being a “collaborator” with the Tories.

Wolmar is a member of the Cycling England board and wouldn’t want to rock any boats. His strongly-worded attack is clear evidence that Cycling England is very likely to be abolished in the forthcoming “killing of the quangos.”

Wolmar chides Baker: “Now don’t start blustering that cycling will be safe without Cycling England or a properly-funded successor body. It won’t. The new fund is not due to start till 2012 anyway, and Cycling England’s money runs out in 2011. Giving ‘freedom’ to local authorities with less money and no precise remit to spend it on cycling will result in more kids failing to learn to ride. Many will be unhealthier and fatter and our roads will be clogged with more parents driving their kids around everywhere. Make no mistake – your decision will affect real lives.”

Strong stuff.

While Cycling England faces the chop (a website has been created to try and prevent this –, it’s very possible that the Coalition Government will wheel out its Big Society idea and say that cycle funding should be decided locally, and national schemes run by bodies independent of the Government. Of course, three such bodies spring to mind: CTC, British Cycling and Sustrans.

All would angle for cash to carry on the work of Cycling England. None can be seen to be pre-pitching for such work. All are agreed that cycling has clear economic benefits to society.

Sustrans has issued a statement pointing out the economic benefits of cycling, headlined ‘The National Cycle Network – a solution to government spending dilemma.’

Tomorrow Sustrans celebrates 15 years of the National Cycle Network. In 2009 the Network carried 407 million cycling and walking journeys, and helped at least two million people be more active. The health benefit of walking and cycling journeys on the Network in 2009 is estimated at £384 million. If each of thosejourneys replaced a car trip the potential carbon savings were worth £32 million, said Sustrans.

“Given that the current costs of inactivity are set at £760 million per annum the National Cycle Network is a cost-effective solution, with the health benefits of people cycling on it adding up to £288 million pa,” said Sustrans.

“Building a mile of walking and cycling path costs as little as £150,000 compared to £10.6 million for a mile of road. And for every pound spent building new walking and cycling routes we get £4 back, primarily thanks to the improved health of those able to get out more under their own steam.”

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive said: “With public spending at a crossroads we have a unique opportunity to save on transport budgets and give people more choice on how they travel.

“Our work shows just how easy it is for people to make different travel choices if they are given the opportunity. With more investment in extending travel choice, we could double the number of local trips being made on foot, bike and public transport in the next ten years, and reap the huge benefits (and savings) of reduced congestion and CO2 emissions, more active lifestyles and more pleasant neighbourhoods.”

On 11th September 1995, an award from the Millennium Commission enabled Sustrans to embark on the first 2,500 miles of a 6,500 mile National Cycle Network. The Network now extends to just over 12,600 miles and carries one million walking and cycling journeys every day.