Government too slow, traffic too fast

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 45.

In June 2002 a House Of Commons select committee produced a long report (Road Traffic Speed) which was very critical of Government policy and action, or rather lack of it, in this field. Last month the Government produced its response which in itself runs to some 30 pages. One section made specific reference to cycling, so I reproduce it here with additional comments.

Select Committee recommendation (e):

There are serious indirect health effects of inappropriate traffic speed. Fast moving traffic plays a part in discouraging physical activity by inhibiting walking and cycling in urban and rural areas. We recommend an increase in the number of dedicated cycle routes. Moreover vehicles travelling at speed are noisy, sever communities and undermine urban regeneration.

Government response:

We are committed to the Ten Year Plan target of trebling the number of journeys made by bicycle by 2010. … Improved facilities for cyclists, including dedicated cycle routes, will certainly encourage more people to cycle. We recognise that a key component of making cycling more popular is to make it safer and more pleasant activity.

The prime responsibility for giving more people the opportunity to cycle rests with the individual local highway authorities. That is why we have required authorities to include a local cycling strategy as part of their Local Transport Plans. Strategies should highlight any gaps in the existing infrastructure, and map out a process for improving the conditions for cyclists, including the construction of cycle paths and routes …

We certainly hope to see more dedicated cycle routes provided by local traffic authorities, along with other features such as improved cycle parking at key destinations, cycle lanes, advanced stop lines, toucan crossings, cycle-friendly road layouts, and better junction arrangements. Together with wider traffic management measures to ensure that vehicle speeds and flows are matched to the mix of users on each road, these can help all provide a safer and more convenient journey for cyclists.

Image as described adjacent
‘Vehicles travelling at speed sever communities’

My response is that it is good to see that trebling cycling is still a committed target. Three cities, Oxford, York and Cambridge, already have high levels of cycling, and trebling cycling in these areas would probably not be practicable. But, unless very significant increases occur in those places, national targets will be much harder to achieve. In fact, the Local Transport Plan target for Cambridgeshire is a mere 33% increase, and that is an absolute rather than a relative figure: significant population growth would probably dilute that target as a percentage of all trips.

It would be nice to see a local cycling strategy that covered all of the items mentioned above.

The last paragraph of the Government’s response looks almost like something out of our ‘manifesto for cycling’.

Jim Chisholm