Painted cycle lanes have been called a “gesture” that do nothing to make people feel safer while cycling, according to Britain’s cycling and walking commissioners.
Therefore, they argue that the government has wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on painting white lines on Britain’s roads and calling them cycle lanes.
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The commissioners, whose number includes Olympic champions Chris Boardmam, Dame Sarah Storey and Will Norman, have written a letter to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, detailing evidence that cycle lanes actually make people feel less safe, pointing to recent studies on the matter.
“As there are currently no national minimum safety standards for walking and cycling infrastructure,” the letter says, “these practices can and will continue wasting public money and failing to persuade people to change their travel habits.”
The commissioners have also called for future investment in transport to move away from prioritising cars, and to make decisions based on “the true cost of car use to society”. They argue that at present factors such as the benefits of cycling and walking to our health and environment are not fully accounted for, and that current economic cost and benefit analysis does not truly reflect the costs of private car use.
They have urged the Department for Transport to change its evaluation methods “to focus on efficient use of road space and total people movement, rather than being based around capacity and journey times for vehicles” when deciding on how to spend money on either, say, a new motorway or a segregated cycle lane.
Scottish councils currently spend money from traffic fines on road safety, and the commissioners are calling on the government to allow English councils to do the same. These traffic fines include speeding, driving without insurance and failing to wear a seatbelt, and the money would be re-invested locally under these plans.
They also want the government to introduce European-style zebra crossings on side roads, which give pedestrians priority over cars and are a cheaper and simpler option than the current UK model.
Manchester has so far received £160m of the £1.5bn that Chris Boardman, the area’s commissioner, says he needs to build a safe network of cycling and walking routes. He said: “It’s tragic that hundreds of millions of pounds of government money has been spent on substandard cycling and walking infrastructure.
“If national government were to adopt these asks we’d be on a winning streak and could truly transform Britain’s towns and cities, not to mention massively improving air quality and health.”