National Cycling Strategy

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 18.

Almost two years ago, the National Cycling Strategy (NCS) was launched by the Conservative government.

It starts with an introduction by Steven Norris, then Local Transport Minister:

On any examination of the needs of a sustainable transport policy, it is crystal clear that the bicycle has been underrated and underused in the United Kingdom for many years. This is especially true when one looks at those other European countries where cycle use has been increased and maintained by deliberate action at both local and national level. There is enormous potential to increase the use of cycles in Britain, but it will only be realised if we develop a coherent approach setting out how the status quo can be altered in favour of the bicycle. The National Cycling Strategy outlines how that can be achieved.

Stirring stuff. I think I rather naively sat back at the time and thought ‘That’s it then; let’s see how it’s implemented locally – after all, it’s national policy now, right?’

Soon after the General Election, concerns began to be aired that the new Government might not support the Strategy after all. However, an excerpt from Hansard (the record of House of Commons Daily Debates) shows this not to be the case after all:

Commons Written Answers (27 October 1997)

Mrs Dunwoody:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the actions taken by his Department since 1 May to increase provision for cyclists and increase cycle use.

Ms Glenda Jackson:

We have given our endorsement to the National Cycling Strategy which aims to quadruple cycle use by 2012. The NCS has a common ownership, having been established by consensus involving a wide range of bodies. I have chaired two meetings of the National Cycling Forum to discuss a range of issues involved in taking the strategy forward. We are now working actively with others to implement it. The Department also provides technical advice to local authority practitioners who play a significant role in developing initiatives at a local level. In July we hosted a regional seminar aimed at traffic engineers and planners to promote the NCS. And in August we published two traffic advisory leaflets outlining results of research on cycle-related issues.

I hope the Integrated Transport White Paper, now due out in June, will strengthen the NCS further – but it will be some time before the paper is converted into law.

As I mentioned last issue (Bikes and Trains), lots of things are happening at a national level, but we, as a Campaign, are concerned at the lack of action locally.

So, to celebrate the Strategy’s second birthday, we will devote our June open meeting to the National Cycling Strategy, and a discussion of how it can be implemented locally. As always, the meeting is at the Friends’ Meeting House, Jesus Lane, on Tuesday 2 June, at 7:30 pm for 8:00.

Clare Macrae