That’s a first. The Prime Minister gets to announce funding for cycling! And a cycling “revolution,” at that.
But let’s not carried away. Though a start, it will involve only eight cities and four national parks! The government puts in £94m, and local councils top this up with £40m. In reality, this is not very much money at all.
But there was another important aspect to this long-awaited statement from the PM. He has called for “cycle proofing”. That means much better quality design of cycle infrastructure, and to make sure that the Highways Agency and Local Authorities comply.
According to Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director at the CTC, the national cycling charity, the PM’s commitment to “cycle-proofing” is a significant development that could put an end to the years of dire cycle infrastructure design by planners and engineers alike, who haven’t a clue how to design roads to accommodate cyclists.
Geffen explained that “cycle-proofing” calls for high standards of cycle-friendly design to be incorporated into all highway and traffic schemes. Key to this will be Highways Agency demonstrating they can show leadership in this process.
There are discussions already underway with the Department for Transport (DfT) about design standards and how to establish processes to ensure that they are incorporated not just into local authority highway and traffic schemes but also into new developments and even road maintenance work.
Are government pedals are turning at last?
In terms of investment in cycling, we are not much further ahead than we were five years ago.
To put it all into perspective, the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report [insert link to CW web story here] has called for five times this amount of investment announced by Cameron – annually – and that’s only to begin with.
It called for an increase in cycling spend from the current £2 per head of population to £10 per head across England. Yet the spending announced last week equates to £10 per head of population for eight cities. The other 42 cities in England can go whistle.
When Cycling England was established in 2005 under Labour – to put flesh on the National Cycling Strategy launched by the Conservatives with no money in 1996 – it received the following sums during its short lifetime: £5m in 2005, £10m in 2006, £20m in 2008 and then additionally that year, another £140m over three years to spend on 11 cities. All of this was under Labour.
A lot of small but meaningful town cycling schemes generating cycle use was the result. Then came the Tory-Lib Dem alliance and Cycling England was abolished in 2011.
The best thing Cameron could do now is re-establish Cycling England with the power to oversee his “revolution.” The next important step is to get our MPs into Parliament on September 2 to debate the Get Britain Cycling report, and push on with the progress made since The Times’ ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign catapulted cycling into the headlines.
The CTC have created a simple tool to write to your MP asking them to attend the debate on September 2. Click here to do so.