Bonfire of the quangos set for Thursday

This coming Thursday, it will be announced in Parliament that Cycling England – and up to 176 other quangos; some vital, others less so – will be abolished.

No amount of lobbying could have saved Cycling England, despite the fact it was one of the vital quangos, employed just four people and cost peanuts to run.

However, as revealed on, Bikeability training – a core function of Cycling England – will be saved, although a vehicle for its administration has yet to be revealed. To keep ‘Cycling proficiency for the 21st Century’ ticking over will cost £10m a year. There are 2000+ Bikeability instructors in the UK, some of whom now rely on the scheme for their living.

The fate of Cycling Demonstration towns – and the city, Bristol – is unknown but continued funding could come from the recently announced Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Thursday’s announcement in Parliament will confirm the worst fears of cycling advocates but Cycling England will not disappear overnight. Cycling England staff are on contract until the middle of next year and there will need to be an orderly winding down of the (compact and bijou) organisation’s duties.

Watch out for transport spending levels in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to be one of the ministers with the biggest axe – chopping nearly 40 percent from the DfT budget – but if he announces any road building funding whatsoever, critics will call foul. He has been pressed and pressed that cycling offers a good return on investment. Good for local economies; good for health; good for people; good for carbon reduction; good for de-gridlocking. Good riddance? What a waste!

To quash Cycling England but to build more roads to be filled up with yet more motorised vehicles will be called out as the height of car-fixated stupidity.

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.

150,000 school children reached with Bike It

With the launch of its annual Bike It Project Review, Sustrans is highlighting how cycling to school can deliver better school transport in the face of £311m of recent local education budget cuts.

The review shows that levels of cycling in Sustrans Bike It schools has doubled; 26 per cent of children cycle to school at least once a week compared to 13 per cent before the project started, whilst the number of children cycling every day has increased to 10 per cent, compared to 3 per cent before the project began.
The number of children being driven to school has also dropped – 22 per cent of children told us that they come to school by car every day, compared to 29 per cent before Sustrans began working at the school.
Paul Osborne, Sustrans Director of School Travel said: “The Bike It project continues to lead the way as one of the UK’s most successful projects bringing about change in the travel behaviour of young people. Sustrans now works with over 800 schools and reaches approximately 150,000 children.
“These latest figures come at a time of major cuts in local authority funding for school transport. As pupils’ journeys become longer, cycling projects such as Bike It play an important role in making a wider choice of schools accessible to their students.
“We know that children who cycle to school are much more likely to be physically active than their peers – reducing the chance of children becoming obese and developing diabetes. Bike It also promotes road safety and cuts the number of cars on the road.”
The Bike It project is a nationwide scheme, developed and run by sustainable transport charity Sustrans. It has been operating across England for five years and expanded into Wales and Northern Ireland in 2008.
Sustrans works closely with schools, teachers, parents, children and local authority staff, helping to organise cycle training, deliver new bike sheds, contribute to classroom work and provide information about safe routes to schools to help children overcome the barriers which are preventing them from cycling to school.
Bike It receives funding from Cycling England, the Department for Transport, Bike Hub industry levy, the Big Lottery Fund’s Well-being Programme,  the Welsh Assembly Government, Transport for London and various partner local authorities and primary care trusts.

Bike It started with four officers, paid for by the Bike Hub levy. There are now 54 officers.
The new Bike It review can be read in clicky-flicky form here: