Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry

This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 107.

On Wednesday 27 February Cambridge Cycling Campaign gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry on ‘Get Britain Cycling’. Here are the points that we made:

We need very high quality infrastructure which sells itself, and which does not need to be ‘promoted’ by local authorities, including high quality cycle paths with proper treatment at junctions.

There should be slower speeds in urban areas, including 20mph zones. These need to be enforced and the police should be given incentives to do this. Clear guidance is needed from the DfT.

Local authorities should be empowered. In particular, the Traffic Management Act 2004 Section 6 should be activated to allow Local Authorities to enforce cycle lanes and pavement parking. There was an improvement in enforcement when Cambridgeshire took over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police, and we would like to see this extended.

There should be a consistent funding stream. In addition there should be a body at the heart of government which will push local authorities to provide high quality facilities and infrastructure. Previously we had Cycling England and its knowledgeable and enthusiastic professionals. In Cambridge, the Gilbert Road scheme happened only because local politicians saw it as part of a citywide plan which was in turn part of a national scheme. Cycling England and the knowledge it embodied are sorely missed.

In the Netherlands, the cycling network is so complete and well signed that one rarely needs a map. Signs often include a journey time to the city centre etc, which is a powerful incentive to people in cars. By contrast, the cycling network in the UK is often interrupted, for instance by major junctions, and one is often forced to use hard-to-follow back streets.

Schools require proper cycle parking. The local cycle network should provide routes directly to the school from within its catchment area. It was reported recently that one school had reduced its cycle parking to provide extra car parking for staff. This sends the wrong message; rather, local authorities should be encouraged to improve cycle paths. Furthermore, there is a health and safety culture which regards cycling as intrinsically dangerous. This is not the case -requiring students to use e.g. helmets and high visibility gear simply puts people off cycling. For many local authorities, the default picture of a cyclist is one in high vis. Cycling should be presented as a normal activity in normal clothes, backed up by work to provide proper cycling infrastructure.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert with local councillors.
Image as described adjacent

The DfT should continue to fund Bikeability. In Cambridge, 70-80% of children do this, and enjoy it. It reduces parents’ fears about the safety of their children. Cycling to school should be encouraged -it builds children’s independence and allows them to develop road skills at an early age. The Cambridge Cycling Campaign probably spends more than half its time dealing with planning (as opposed to transport) applications. Cambridgeshire County Council has been successful at obtaining Section 106 money from developers this is a good way to fix problems; for instance, a new building can fund fixes on an adjacent junction. A key problem is that DfT guidance deals mainly with retrofitting cycling infrastructure onto existing roads. There is little on what to do when there is a ‘blank sheet of paper’. Cambridge Cycling Campaign has written a guide on ‘Cycling in New Developments’ which argues that local authorities should think in terms of three networks, for walking, cycling and driving.

In Cambridge, the local authority cycling officers are hard-working and in some respects represent an ‘internal lobby’ within the council. However, people higher up still need to be influenced. Of course, in Cambridge many senior people cycle too.

Cambridge has a long culture of cycling. This is not just due to the presence of the university, but also to the presence of many green spaces through which one can cycle. Cycling is not just safer and quicker than alternatives, but it is also more reliable -one can get up at a certain time and still have confidence of reaching one’s destination on time.

Cycling demonstration towns have been useful because they concentrated resources and enabled things to be done well.

Martin Lucas-Smith