Saturday, January 22, 2011
Local Transport White Paper - So Farewell Cycling
We better get used to it. There are going to be a lot of goodbyes in the coming weeks and months, as public sector cuts kick in, coupled with the new government's declared end to the love-in - oops, I mean war - on motorists.
Last Thursday came the first cycling farewell in Darlington - the council's Cycle Forum. The Forum gave local people - cyclists or not - the chance to get involved in the local authority's ongoing plans for cycling. This became especially important once our status as one of the first Cycling Demonstration Towns was announced in 2005. The Council explained that they could no longer justify the expense of officers' time at the Forum, especially as attendance by the general public had dropped.
Next to go will be the coordinators of the Cycling Demonstration Towns initiative, Cycling England. Use the link whilst you still can! Sacrificed in the government's so-called bonfire of the quangos, Cycling England had a paltry £60m a year to spend on cycling, or £1 per UK citizen. This compares with about £25 per citizen in the cycling-friendly Netherlands.
But now that funding is set to drop even further, to something like 20p per person. The new government's Local Transport White Paper sets out plans for the demolition of direct national funding for cycling, and its replacement with a competitive pot of money for all sustainable transport - including buses. Meanwhile, cycling funding will be reduced to sustaining Bikeability, the cycle training initiative. Then, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will have an impressive £560m to spend - but over 5 years, and for all sustainable travel options. An excellent analysis of the Local Transport White Paper can be found here, on the excellent Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club blog.
In the name of "localism", the coalition refuses to take responsibility for a coordinated policy to increase cycling numbers. Meanwhile it announces 24 new road schemes. As Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said, " I am pleased that spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government in the Spending Review."
With local authority budgets set to be viciously squeezed, the next farewells are likely to be the various cycle-related jobs currently attached to the public sector - whether directly employed, or via organisations like Sustrans.
It's not openly stated, but the lack of any coherent policy to make cycling attractive - like developing the kind of infrastructure enjoyed in countries with high levels of cycling - is the other side of the Bikeability coin. As the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club blog states: "you can train all the people you like to cycle, and even experience a slight rise in numbers, but if the roads look dangerous, then the numbers will fall again and the expense would have been in vain. There’s a reason cycling is flatlining at between 3-4% and (the Local Transport White Paper) doesn’t address it directly in any way".
British cyclists don't need cycle paths! What they need is good quality training that gives them the guts to get out on these busy roads and tussle with all the new motorised vahicles that are going to enjoy all these new roads! So come on chaps (assuming the continuing exclusion of chapesses)! British cyclists have balls!!