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!!


wuppidoc said...

Who can take this government seriously any more?

24 more road schemes and Hammond happily says: "This Government sees transport as a key driver of growth nationally and in the regions."

So more spending on motorised traffic (which is nothing else than subsidies) and cutting back on sustainable cycling traffic (to finance the subsidies for cars!).

That is how we reduce CO2 emissions and bring Britain out of its financial misery?

This growth-concept is from the 60s...and a witness to very poor economics.

Brian Vigurs said...

Let’s not pussyfoot around the issue of the forum, it has to be said that the cause of the demise has to lay firmly upon us cyclists and for this reason we should all hang our heads in shame – and I include mine.

wuppidoc said...

Well of course, all the absent cyclists can be blamed. But there is also some people's fears to stand up in public, to address the council directly, which you could do at the forum. It is still not understandable why they do not keep it going.

And by the way, it should be run by the cyclists and not the council. When I went the first time 6 years ago it was chaired by a cyclist. And the council workers were simply consulting, answering questions etc..
So why not set up a new forum run by cyclists? We can invite councillors and council workers.

Brian Vigurs said...

You may remember I set a forum up some time ago "Darlington Cyclists forum" - several folks from the DCC joined, as did others, but failed to use it. Only Duncan and I posted.
I'll do it again if you wish, but please use it.

wuppidoc said...

Sorry, I am not talking about an Internet Forum, but a Forum where people appear physically. Like the ex-Cycle Forum.

There are many people that do not like to use Internet Forums for whatever reason.

Brian Vigurs said...

There are many that do, and many that don’t, but one advantage is they that use them do not need a physical presence. I for one find it nigh on impossible due to work load to get to a “physical” forum.
You may just attract the everyday fellow who is not particularly interested in campaigning, but still would like a voice, somewhere totally independent and with a wide audience. DCC, Council, Friends of the Earth, Schools the list is endless.
It literary takes 3 minutes to set up, just done it -
But it would need pushing, which is something I did not do last time around with gusto, relying to a large extent on those who actually had logged on, but in reality did not actually support the idea just wanted to keep an eye on it.
It did get read, the actual forum containing the “cycling forum minutes” and “News” umpteen times.
You may find that the next time the council wish to discuss a strong cycling issue it will be on a “Talking together” forum run by, guess, the council.

wuppidoc said...

Yes, of course it will be a "Talking together" forum, they have already announced that.
Internet forums are fine as long it is just about information.

But if you want to actually DO something you need to physically appear.

Or do you think that the overthrow of the regime in Tunesia was done on the Internet?

Brian Vigurs said...

“But if you want to actually DO something you need to physically appear.”
But nobody does / did – that’s why the cycle forum folded.

All I’m saying is the more arrows you have, the more effective will be your bow.

Tunisia ?????
If you had ever worked in Annaba close to the border you would know that Tunisia has nothing to do with forums / internet and just how lucky we are to live in Europe.
Forum will be deleted later today.
I do in all sincerity wish the DCC good luck in raising public awareness in 2011 and that more than 3 “physically” attend future (?) forums. The demise in attendance was falling in reality over a number of meetings and the writing was on the wall, but ignored and I include myself in this criticism.

Brian Vigurs said...

"BikeDarlington is an open, online forum for members and supporters of Darlington Cycling Campaign. You can comment on posts directly, or use the form below to subscribe by email, or follow us using our Google Connect button."

Excellent - & nice bike links!

wuppidoc said...

All is well that ends well. So we are off to a new start. Great!