MPs and a Lord urge Transport Secretary to do more for cycling

MPs – and a Lord – from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group met with Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin yesterday, and pressed him on his department’s lacklustre support for cycling.

MPs Ruth Cadbury, Alex Chalk, Dr. Sarah Wollaston and Steve Brine were joined by Lord Berkeley. They asked the Transport Secretary to clarify the funding for cycling following the recent reduced settlement in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The MPs and Lord Berkeley also urged
McLoughlin to chivvy his department along over the adoption of National Design Standards. London and Wales have been sharing a “Best Practice Base” to share knowledge but nationally little appears to moving.

McLoughlin said that he will be “very mindful to fund cycling bids submitted through the Local Growth Fund.” When challenged on the APPCG call for spending £10 per head, per annum on cycling (one of the APPCG’s 18 Get Britain Cycling recommendations), he said he while he could not guarantee it, there is no reason why “all the pots of money available to cycling, won’t add up to £10 per head”.

The APPCG members also asked McLoughlin to follow the lead taken by the Highways Agency and ensure that all DfT-funded road schemes are “cycle-proofed”.

As HGV-related cycle deaths has been a major issue for the APPCG, members sought assurance that the Transport Secretary would focus attention on initiatives that reduces deaths and serious injuries of cyclists under the wheels of heavy lorries. Initiatives discussed included incentivising hauliers to invest in direct vision lorries, encouraging site developers to transport heavy loads by rail rather than road, and for the DfT to work with other departments to consider hypothecating fines to make enforcement regimes more affordable for police and local authorities.

Ruth Cadbury, co-chair of the parliamentary cycling group, said: “The Secretary of State shared our concerns over the safety of cyclists and I feel encouraged that he will pursue the suggestions that we made, particularly encouraging Local Authorities to cycle-proof their roads, based on the Highways Agency model.”

Fellow co-chair Alex Chalk said: “I was encouraged by the Secretary of State’s comments about funding streams available through the Local Growth Fund. It is delivering those safe cycle schemes that will be key to getting more people onto bikes.”

Training is not an alternative to good infrastructure, confirms trade body

TABS, the Association of Bikeability Schemes, has issued a statement confirming that it does not believe cycle training takes the place of good cycling infrastructure, such as cycleways. This topic is often controversial on social media, with some cycle advocates stating that the money pumped into Bikeability by the Department for Transport would be better spent on protected bicycle infrastructure.

Bikeability is “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on and away from roads. TABS is a body set up to represent the cycle training industry.

The TABS statement is short and to the point:

“Training is not an alternative to good infrastructure but one of many measures that encourage cycling.”

On social media it is sometimes mentioned that Dutch children don’t need cycle training because they can get to and from school on protected cycling infrastructure. In fact, Dutch children do receive cycle training, partly because they sometimes have to share roads with motor vehicles.

Tej Mistry, the CTC representative on the TABS board, said:

“The importance of infrastructure is clear, as is the continued requirement for improved conditions, facilities, and engineering advancements.”

Mistry added: “Fundamentally, cycling is a safe activity whether for leisure, recreation or transport. Encouraging people to cycle brings an array of wider benefits.

“A key element to increasing levels of cycling is education through cycle training to support the development of new cyclists through confidence-building and skills development. Training, especially for young people through Bikeability, will drive long-term health and social benefits for society.”

Government infographic spells out cycling’s economic benefits

Highways England, a government-owned company, has produced an infographic that lists cycling’s many health, social, economic and congestion-busting benefits. The graphic was included in a new Cycling Strategy document released on Friday. Highways England manages the strategic road network in England, or about 4,400 miles of roads, half of which are motorways.

The infographic – viewable in hi-res on Flickr – within the Cycling Strategy from Highways England majors on the economic benefits of cycling, including the fact that Danish levels of cycling would save the NHS £17 billion over the next 20 years. It also stresses the benefits to retailers of being sited near cycleways. “Bike lanes can increase retail sales by a quarter,” promises the graphic, which also states that more people cycling would reduce congestion on England’s roads.

Highways England plans to spend £100 million on “cycle proofing” 200 road schemes. These cycling schemes  include creating cycleways beside A-roads, such as the multi-user track to be created when the A556 in Cheshire is “de-trunked”.

Significantly, Highways England says its about “more than just supporting the millions of cars, vans and motorcycles that use our roads every day. Our network also plays a key role in supporting the needs of vulnerable road users, including cyclists.”

The agency is seeking to develop an “integrated, safe, comprehensive and high quality cycling network.” It defines safe as “separate from traffic and that enable users of all abilities to cycle …”

Additional infrastructure will be needed, says the agency, because “cycling is prohibited on our motorways and incompatible with major parts of our network.”

The Government infographic has been adapted from one produced for British Cycling in 2013. Many of the health benefit stats on the infographic were first contained in “Claiming the Health Dividend” published for the Department for Transport in 2014. Despite the Government being well aware of the health, social, economic and congestion-busting benefits of cycling it continues to subsidise and mainly provide for motoring. The Government has plans to spend £15.2 billion on building new roads but, over the next five years has only pledged to spend £300 million on cycling.



Map shows that car-ownership in cities is less than politicians might think

A new map-and-data merge vividly demonstrates that many urban areas in England and Wales have electoral wards where the majority of people don’t own cars. Some wards in London, Newcastle and other cities have car-ownership of less than 30 percent yet local and national governments continue to plough money mainly into facilities for motorists.

The new map has been created by Tom Forth of Imactivate, a data consultancy based in Leeds. The map uses information from the 2011 Census and the Office for National Statistics, and by plotting this often obtuse data on Google Maps it shows how car ownership in towns and cities in England and Wales is perhaps not as prevalent as politicians and planners seem to believe.

The map also shows that rural areas are highly car dependent, which isn’t surprising considering how public transport to such areas has been cut back over many years, including the Beeching-induced cuts to Britain’s rail network and the politically-motivated bus deregulation of the 1980s.

Forth says Imactivate works with data to “tell stories in a digital world.” He created BusStart, a smartphone app that evaluates bus routes and suggests changes that would better connect people with jobs. Last year Imactivate also used Google’s flight data to discover that Britain’s hub airport isn’t Heathrow but Schiphol, a finding that was reported on BBC Radio 4.

Urban cycle advocates will no doubt use the car-ownership map to show businesses and local politicians that providing facilities that encourages more cycling and walking is economically and socially sound.

Call for papers as it’s revealed Leicester is to host Cycle City 2016

Cycle City will be hosted in Leicester in 2016. The two-day cycle policy and planning conference has previously been staged in Birmingham and Leeds, and last year was held in Newcastle

Leicester is not one of the cities to have received millions of pounds from the Department for Transport via the Cycle City Ambition Grant funding but has been progressing its provision for cycling regardless. According to a piece I wrote in The Guardian this is because Leicester has an elected mayor. When he was the council leader Sir Peter Soulsby could do little for active travel, but once he was voted in as mayor he was able to start a program called Connecting Leicester which will, over the next few years, transform the way people move around the city.

The public realm improvements in the city centre are having a significant impact on investment decisions and the take up of employment land and office space, attracting companies such as IBM to move to the city.

Visitors to Cycle City will be able to see the transformation of the city first hand. The conference will be held in the £61m Curve theatre in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter on 19th and 20th May.

Organised by Landor Links, publisher of Local Transport Today, Cycle City is co-sponsored by Leicester City Council. The Association of Bikeability Schemes, or TABS, will host its national cycle training conference in tandem with Cycle City. There will also be joint conferences with inclusive cycling organisation Wheels for All and the European Cycle Logistics Federation.

Cycle City is now calling for papers to present to the 700+ anticipated delegates.

“We request papers from academics, consultants, local authority officers and councillors, developers, LEPs, workplaces, suppliers to the sector and campaigners,” said Landor’s Rory McMullan.