Cycling: the local perspective – speaking to the Parliamentary Inquiry

We're speaking to the 'Get Britain Cycling' Parliamentary Inquiry at 9am on Wednesday 27th February.

Our Chair will represent our views to the committee of MPs, at the House of Commons, giving 'the local perspective' on improving cycling.

You will be able to listen via a live audio feed of the Inquiry.

The key points we made in our full response to the Inquiry call for evidence can be summarised as follows:

  • The need for a strategic cycling body in government
  • Adopting the Dutch CROW-25 guidance as official UK government policy on cycle infrastructure
  • Getting on with, and funding, improvements, rather than a continual treadmill of further studies
  • Cycling integration with health – facilitating active travel
  • Consistency in funding, not odds and ends that result in short-term compromises
  • National, ambitious targets for cycling
  • Exploring whether to make cycle training a compulsory part of the driving test 
  • Addressing safety by reducing speed and by providing Dutch-quality infrastructure
  • Priority over sideroads in infrastructure design
  • A national standard cycle lane width of 2.1m, ideally as hybrid or a fully-segregated Dutch-style cycle track
  • Enforcement of traffic law, based on the principle of relative danger of types of vehicles
  • Introducing civil enforcement of cycle lanes by bringing the Traffic Management Act 2004 Part 6 into force
  • A range of proposals to deal with HGV safety and driver training
  • A whole range of measures related to urban design
  • Tackling cycle theft through wider provision of cycle parking in towns, workplaces, residences
  • Integration of public transport with the bicycle
  • 20mph in residential areas

We've issued this briefing:

Cycling: the local perspective

It's only locally where changes on the ground actually happen. National policy and funding are essential, but it is only Local Authorities around the country that actually implement change on the ground. Yet local politicians are subject to pressure from local residents who, for instance, usually do not wish to see parking removed to make space for cycleways. The national debate on improving cycle infrastructure hasn’t really addressed this at all, nor has yet the (excellent) Times ‘Cities Safe for Cycling’ Campaign. Local campaign groups are the people providing the pressure to fix things.

Local political will and the localism agenda. Any changes to favour cycling properly, namely space at junctions and the creation of proper space on the roads both require reductions in vehicle capacity. Reducing traffic lanes or removing car parking are both extremely politically difficult. Yet these are both essential if cycling is to be improved. Local Councillors rarely will do either of these things, even in a place like Cambridge. The mantra of ‘leave it all to local politicians’ in the name of localism means things are currently unlikely to change.

A strategic body, "Cycling for England", at the heart of the DfT, is needed. Until recently, Local Authorities forming the Cycling Demonstration Towns had access to a body of extremely knowledgeable and enthused professionals, actively pushing LAs to do things the right way, helping them through difficulties, and providing advice, yet operating with a tiny administrative budget. The DfT must create a new strategic body to push LAs. This would also help improve the relationship between Local Authorities and local campaign groups.

Consistent funding stream.  One-off announcements of small pots of money, such as the £15m fund for junctions, are not conducive to seeing money well-spent. Giving LAs only 9 months to plan and implement schemes means that any serious efforts, such as fixing dangerous junctions, will be impossible. The Dutch have spent £10-20 per person for decades. If we don’t do that, the UK’s population will not see the benefits of cycling. A much larger, consistent funding stream is needed.

New developments must have a clear requirement for three networks. Other than the Manual for Streets, there is no guidance at all on what developers should do when they have a blank sheet of paper. All current DfT guidance is about retrofitting. The MfS and other guidance must be changed to require all housing estate developers to create ‘three networks’ – cycling, walking and driving.

Local Authorities need to plan for convenience, not safety. No-one cycles ‘because’ it is safe – they cycle if it is quick and easy. Cycle networks should be built for convenience, directness and speed. Safety will then come automatically. For instance, junctions that prioritise cycling by making space, will be safer. Also, some Local Authorities require that any photos of cyclists must show every cyclist using a helmet/hi-viz – such depictions should be banned. Instead, a mix reflecting real cycling (i.e. both helmeted and non-helmeted people), using ordinary bikes, should be shown.

Give Local Authorities the tools to do their job cheaply and easily. The introduction of ‘No entry except cycles’ for instance now makes this convenience/safety benefit easy to achieve – it avoids costly street redesign. In the same way, the Traffic Management Act 2004 section 6 should be implemented so that highly-successful Decriminalised Parking Enforcement schemes can ticket motorists in cycle lanes. The police are simply not interested in such enforcement.