I was pessimistic in Newsletter 31 about the prospects for cyclists in the Government’s ten year transport plan, as we awaited its publication. It came out while the newsletter was being printed, so this is the first opportunity to look at what it really says, rather than the informed speculation that preceded it.
The headline, of course, is the amount of money that is to be invested in transport – £180 billion of extra money over ten years is a lot in anyone’s books, though a substantial part of that is from private sector funding. Big funding, though, seems to mean big projects. It offers good news for railways and tramways. It puts investment back into major roads for the first time for several years, with a promise or threat, depending on your outlook, of a hundred new bypasses, major road widening and technology-led traffic management. Where does that leave cycling?
|Integrated transport? The Plan’s cover picture has a politically correct cyclist waiting at a give way line while the car speeds past.|
Cycling may benefit directly from the major funding increases promised for local transport. These are grants to local authorities, including Cambridgeshire, to support their local transport plans. That is also where the indirect benefits for things like 20 mph zones and safer streets come from. Unfortunately, this is also a big flaw: none of these things are ‘ring-fenced,’ so there is no guarantee that there will be any change. The Plan does not make any specific provisions. While generally positive about speed limit enforcement, Cambridgeshire is mainly hostile to reducing speeds.
We already knew that the Government would renege on the first target of doubling cycling trips over the six years 1996 to 2002, set out in its National Cycling Strategy. Instead, and slightly surprisingly, it has introduced a new target of tripling trips in the ten years 2000 to 2010, the lifetime of the Plan. It is hard to see why this is any more achievable than the original target, when there is nothing at all in the Plan to back up the National Cycling Strategy.
There are thirty five mentions of ‘cycling’, ‘bicycle’ etc. in the Plan. Most of these are things like captions on graphs showing modal split, or woolliness such as ‘encouraging shops and services at the neighbourhood level so people can walk or cycle for their day-to-day needs.’ There is no indication at all of how this will be achieved, who will do the encouraging, by when and with what monitoring of effectiveness. An excellent sentiment, but lacking teeth.
The Plan also shows the way in which its non-cycling authors think about cyclists: as pedestrians with wheels, rather than cars without engines. ‘Cycling’ is nearly always suffixed by ‘and walking’, a habit we have also had cause to criticise the County Council for adopting. The Plan’s section on cycling and (you guessed it) walking – see Box – is about as specific as it gets. The one exception is for London, where there is a commitment to complete the London Cycle Network.
Incredibly, there is a whole chapter on Safety, which mentions cycling only in this sentence: ‘We want people to travel safely and to feel secure whether they are on foot or bicycle, in a car, on a train, or bus, at sea or on a plane.’ In contrast, there are details on major investment in train warning systems, and rail staff notification procedures and on so on. While any casualties are regrettable, the amount of new money being spent on rail safety is out of proportion. Many more cyclists die on Britain’s roads than die in rail crashes, yet we are talking factors of tens of thousands of times less funding for safety initiatives.
In the last newsletter, I was pessimistic. Based on advance information I might have given the Ten Year Plan ‘2 out of 10’ for cycling. Having seen the real thing, maybe I’d give it 3.
From the Plan