So What Do We Do Now?

A wonderfully apt sign in Blackheath, Surrey

WARNING: CONTAINS STRANGE SEXY TALK (Strange in that it came from an Englishman)

Had the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club started 25 years ago, it would have been quite a quiet, pleasing and delightfully tatty newsletter with articles about such exotic things as that new Mountain Bike fad or trying to understand Moultons or maybe a recommended cycle tour to Glastonbury.

Nowadays, the casual reader might be forgiven for thinking that cycling is facing the end of its very existence. Thanks to technological advancement of the Internet, every day seems to bring a new horror story requiring  journalists and blog writers to constantly downgrade their forecasts and dispositions from ‘bad’ to ‘’catastrophic’.

Before we begin today’s sermon, it needs reiterating that the end of the World is not nigh for cycling and never will be. Like sex, cycling is too fun, it gets you hot and sweaty (if you like it fast), it makes you more alive and sexier the more you do it, it gets you to where you want to go and, being cheap, it is a filthy, slutty transport mode that will never be disciplined (which is why a few repressed British citizens don’t like the idea of it). Phew!….erm….forgive me! All that smutty talk aside, let’s look at the Britain we find ourselves in;

 

CTC

From their website

CTC Today

Today CTC has around 60,000 members encompassing all ages and types of cyclists with elected representation at national and local level backed by a professional staff.

CTC provides a wide range of activities and services designed to enhance the riding opportunities for existing cyclists and make it easier for new entrants to take up cycling. These include CTC Cyclists Helpline for advice on all cycling matters, local groups with a huge range of rides, local and national events. Our services have been refined by thousands of cyclists to make sure they are exactly what you need to get enjoyment and security whether you ride 100 miles or 100 yards. In particular third party insurance and legal aid are free to all members. CTC also offers a wide range of insurance and public liability products tailored to the needs of cyclists, employers, clubs and associations, cycle hire centres etc. If you are not out on your bike, the members’ magazine, Cycle, is free six times a year and sets your imagination free to plan your next ride. Search the site for lots more

CTC has campaigned for cyclists’ rights throughout its existence. Major successes include the development of the National Cycling Strategy and representing the cyclists’ voice in the countryside, protecting the right to ride on roads, paths, trails and towpaths. The CTC’s Right to Ride Network has over 500 accredited local representatives throughout the UK and Ireland working for all cyclists.

In 1936 CTC created a first cycling proficiency scheme in response to increasing cyclists’ casualties at the time. This was adopted as a national programme run by RoSPA in 1948 and has been in use almost ever since. Today CTC is at the forefront of a next generation of cycle training initiatives enabling people to cope with the conditions of today.

What we are aiming for

CTC is committed to a vibrant and broad base that encompasses all sectors including offroad and adventurous cycling, sport and leisure. CTC believes that all cyclists must defend all elements of the existing road and trail network as safe and comfortable places to ride, so the diversity of cycling can be maintained. We use the phrase “Making cycling enjoyable, safe and welcoming for all” to summarise our aspirations.

Being a member and ex-employee, I’ll always have great affection for CTC. However, it’s that last paragraph that I have issues with. It seems to completely ignore the soaring rates of car use that have occurred over the last few decades. You can train people all you like, but if a road looks dangerous, it counts for nothing. I have a few hair-raising moments on my commute every week and I’ve raced Mountain Bikes at World Cup level and have thousands of leisurely miles under my tyres, just as you probably have, dear reader.

CTC is a membership organization made up of very experienced cyclists that haven’t a clue how to project themselves to the general public. They have voluntary regional representatives (Right to Ride reps) who diligently turn up to every local cycle meeting and Council Forum, correctly berating councils for trying to shovel cyclists off the roads onto poorly designed infrastructure but instead pushing for vehicular cycling provision that you know no novice in their right mind is going to use so back to square one.

Sustrans

From their website

Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. We’re a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. We work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in.

It’s time we all began making smarter travel choices. Make your move and support Sustrans today.

We’re a catalyst – we make smarter travel choices possible.

We campaign – we make smarter travel choices desirable.

We influence – we make smarter travel choices inevitable.

All stirring stuff until you realise that their solutions often bring pedestrians and cyclists into direct conflict with no space ceded by the motor car. When their paths work, they are very, very good. However, more often then not, they don’t and are in fact pavements. This creates a further problem because when a cycle route inevitably peters out on a pavement doesn’t mean that a novice cyclist is then going to rejoin the road. They will simply continue to use any pavement, whether the council has painted a bicycle symbol on it or not there by creating further conflict.

British Cycling

From their website

British Cycling is the National Governing Body for cycling in Great Britain whose aim is to inspire participation in cycling as a sport, recreation and sustainable transport through achieving worldwide success. British Cycling manages all elite aspects of the sport including events and performances at GB level and governs the development of cycle sport in England. It also represents Great Britain at UCI, the World Governing Body for Cycling, which oversees the sport at an international level.

British Cycling also provides essential services to the Home Country Governing Bodies in Scotland and Wales, the Scottish Cycling Union (SCU) and the Welsh Cycling Union (WCU) who are involved in the promotion and development of cycling at all levels including the focus on the Commonwealth Games. British Cycling provides essential services to these governing bodies including the administration of membership, licences and insurance as well as providing strategic guidance and support on all aspects of cycling.

British Cycling is entering an unprecedented period of expansion in the run up to London 2012 through increased funding from UK Sport, Sport England and commercial partnerships and will drive a real and tangible legacy for cycling beyond 2012. The legacy has to be one of an increased volunteer workforce and a large British Cycling membership base. Full details of British Cycling’s Whole Sport Plan 2009-2013 will be announced over the coming months.

British Cycling has achieved much in cycle sport and has much to be proud of. However, although they mention sustainable transport, they are to everyday cycling what the X-Factor is to tasteful discretion.

It would be easy to paint a depressing picture of where to go from here, now that Cycling England is to be disbanded in March 2011. But Cycling England was always on shaky foundations being a Quango that could be held at arms length by ministers. I also acknowledge that I’ve glossed over a lot of good works achieved by organisations such as CTC and Sustrans. However, what can’t be denied is the relentlessly low modal share that cycling has had for decades. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to tentatively put forward the following ideas;

A Non-Vehicular Union with organisations such as CTC, Sustrans, Living Streets and Disability Groups given representation. There should also be representation from the cycle industry, health professionals and architects with any interest in streetscape design and public transport interchanges. There needs to be firm partnerships struck with the Fietsberaad and other European partners. There has to be better infrastructure guidelines set with less conflict between non-vehicular modes of transport. There must be a push for lower speed limits in towns and cities with reallocation of road space where necessary. We shouldn’t be creating crap facilities for cyclists anymore. We should be creating decent facilities for people that don’t know they’re cyclists or pedestrians yet.

As I’ve written before, the public won’t necessarily support an exclusively cycling campaign. But they will support something that benefits them as pedestrians, potential cyclists and even motorists.  

Above all there needs to be a relentless education of ministers and, in the spirit of Big Society, decent well honed campaigns with volunteers including handsome cycling bloggers standing up and being counted.

These are early rough thoughts obviously and more will be added.  But anything that gets a debate going is better than doing nothing. Which worryingly is what seems to be happening. Whatever happens next is either going to be fascinating or infuriating.

Advertisements

Make Hammond History

Big Business People Doing Important Big Businessy Things. They need Big Business Infrastructure. Like that Big Business Flipchart. For Big Business People

Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond MP announced big plans for transport infrastructure spending.

Along with the eight schemes announced by the Chancellor last week, work will therefore begin on a total of 24 schemes as a result of the Department for Transport’s spending review settlement.

The schemes given the green light today, subject to statutory processes, will deliver major upgrades to relieve congestion at the following locations either through widening or managed motorways schemes:

– M60 Junctions 8 – 12
– M1 Junctions 32 – 35a
– M60 Junctions 12 – 15
– M1 Junctions 39 – 42
– M62 Junctions 18 – 20
– M25 Junctions 5 – 6/7
– M25 Junctions 23 – 27
– M6 Junctions 5 – 8
– A556 Knutsford – Bowdon

The following key local infrastructure projects were also confirmed, subject to a best and final offer from local authorities:

– A new single carriageway bypass which will ease congestion in Sefton and improve access to the region’s motorway network;

– An integrated package of sustainable transport improvements in Ipswich including improved bus facilities and walking and cycling routes;

– Improvements to M5 J29, east of Exeter, providing access to new housing and employment areas;

– A bypass to the north of Lancaster, connecting the port of Heysham to the M6;

– Improvements on the A57 east of M1 J31, near Todwick;

– A new road in Taunton to provide additional cross-town capacity and access to areas of brownfield land; and

– A new bus station and associated transport improvements in Mansfield.

In addition, the Transport Secretary announced a pot of over £600m of funding for further local authority projects. Local authorities will be invited to bid for this funding over the next few months. Councils will be challenged to consider the cost, scope and possibility of local funding when bidding.

The Government believes this competitive process will ensure that the greatest possible number of schemes, with the best value for money, will be able to proceed, facilitating economic growth and providing jobs across the country.

Philip Hammond said:
“Whilst we have had to make some tough choices, I am pleased that spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government in the Spending Review.

“This Government sees transport as a key driver of growth nationally and in the regions. So I am delighted to be able to give the green light to 24 new transport projects and a fund worth over £600m for many more schemes to bid for.

“Taken together, this investment will not only bring benefits in terms of reduced congestion, shorter journey times and more efficient public transport, but also provide a vital economic boost. For every pound we spend on Highways Agency schemes, on average we will get back £6 of benefits and in many cases there are even higher returns for local authority schemes.

“Transport is vital to securing the UK’s long term prosperity. That is why these schemes are so important and why I will continue to argue for investment which delivers long term benefits for both the travelling public and the economy as a whole.”

The Government also announced that the Highways Agency will continue work on developing a further 14 schemes in preparation for them to start in future spending review periods, as funding becomes available, and will review the design of a further four with the aim of finding a best value solution.’

I like the way in the detailed motorway plans, the hard Shoulder being used to increase traffic flow becomes a DYNAMIC Hard Shoulder! At least until someone breaks down. One shudders to think what cycling improvements have been planned for Ipswich.

History has shown us beyond doubt that building more roads and increasing capacity of existing roads just creates more traffic with the resultant knock on effects to surrounding areas. This has been common knowledge since the A40 Westway via the M3 Twyford Down to the A34 Newbury Bypass. However, Mr Hammond is oblivious to all this, just as the public enquiries were for many road schemes and ‘improvements’ through the years.

Bikehub reported on Sustrans response

‘… Sustrans has reacted strongly to Hammond’s announcement.

Jason Torrance, Sustrans’ Policy Manager, said:

“Sustrans is dismayed that the Government is missing a golden opportunity to put right a broken transport system, despite its green promises.

“The Secretary of State for Transport proudly boasts that his lengthy list of road transport schemes bring benefits of £6 for every £1 spent. But sustainable transport schemes that encourage active travel offer much better value, at £8 for every £1 spent. And they directly address the congestion issues that today’s announcement claims to solve.

“And there are other benefits.  Given that 1 in 20 UK people are now being treated for type 2 diabetes and 1 in 10 for obesity – both illnesses that are exacerbated by physical inactivity – improving the health of the nation, and tackling the costs attached to that, has to be seen as critical.  With this in mind not prioritising walking and cycling should be unthinkable.”’

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club does not regard this as reacting strongly. In fact it’s barely reacting. Personally, I’ve written stronger letters to the Worthing Herald. The CTC website is showing no reaction at all. Anyway, that’s another debate.

The DfT has also just launched its THINK! ‘Be bright, be seen’ campaign.

Not content with building more dangerous roads, they seem to have entered the spirit of Halloween with a bit too much vigour on a site that is bound to scare children (and more importantly their parents) making cycling look like a dangerous activity and putting them off.

Here is an example ‘gory story’;

‘The girl who didn’t dress bright in the dark

She always liked to look her best

So didn’t wear a nice bright vest

Or any clothing that was bright

When she was out at nearly night


But traffic couldn’t see her see

And now she isn’t so trendy

A car drove right into her guts

And covered her with bruisy cuts’

I’ve checked and I still can’t find anything informing parents that when they drive, they are in control of a heavy vehicle that can maim and kill if not driven correctly, and that they have a duty of care to the children of others, not just their own.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to start a campaign of its own;

Make Hammond History Reshuffle the Kerfuffle!

Obviously The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club wishes Mr Hammond no harm (although we would like to drive really close to him at speed if he ever gets on a bicycle). We feel that there must be wholesale reform of a Department for Transport that’s not entering the spirit of the twenty first century with their belief that ‘sustainable’ means ‘bigger roads’ or ‘electric cars charged by fossil fuels’.

We suggest getting brown wristbands made up to represent the utter dung cyclists have had to put up with and will have to endure now that many speed cameras have been switched off and Cycling England disbanded with no viable alternative and cycle infrastructure thrown to the provinces that couldn’t design a cycle facility if their lives depended on it.

A bit like this, but brown. And 'Hammond' instead of 'Poverty'.

Who would have thought that something as simple as cycling could be made to look so dangerous, complicated and strangely irrelevant in the wake of ‘progress’? Oh well, if ‘Make Hammond History’ doesn’t work there’s always ‘Make Baker Better’. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is open to ideas.

Can Cycling Be Funny?

Me trying to be funny

 

Last year I completed a stand up comedy course organised by the very knowledgeable and lovely Jill Edwards who, through no fault of her own, has also ended up living in Worthing. The course was a real eye-opener and went so well, I graduated by performing at a New Act gig at Komedia, Brighton in front of a sell out 250 people (the audience was a combination of the graduates’ friends, families, work colleagues, former comedy graduates and ramdom people off the street and it was incredibly nerve-wracking). Since then I attended the Advanced Workshops to develop material and did a couple more gigs until my son arrived in May.

Now its time to go back to comedy school after a prolonged Paternity Leave. Although becoming a new father should provide acres of material, I was wondering if anyone has ever got any mileage out of cycling for comedy material?

Below is a picture of the brilliant comedian, Dave Gorman. Even when he’s not laugh out loud funny, he’s nothing less than fascinating to watch. For part of a tour he did recently, he cycled 1,600 miles to the four cardinal points of  Britian (most westerly, most easterly etc). This of course produced some interesting venues to perform at (and would make a fascinating CTC Touring Route Sheet) but the material wasn’t about cycling.

Dave Gorman on his ‘Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up’ Tour

So far the only potential snippet I have for inclusion regarding cycling into my set is as follows,

‘I’m a cyclist because I don’t think I received enough verbal abuse and persecution as a child….’

Obviously there’s a ton of other hilarious material that fits around it (trust me!) but I’m trying to develop the best way to approach this sort of material as cycling is a fundamental part of my life and always has been to varying degrees. The Golden Rule of comedy is to tell the truth from the heart.

Cycling has featured in comedy classics before such as Jacques Tati’s ambitous postman in Jour de Fete or the Bicycle Repair Man and Pither’s Cycling Tour sketches in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But can material be gleaned from something utilitarian that we do every day? If Michael McIntyre can get mediocre material about driving into his set (about overtaking generally), I want to see if I can develop something funnier about cycling.

I thoroughly recommend Jill’s stand up course and I thoroughly welcome your thoughts. No jokes about Bromptons though. That’s just sick.

Persecution Complex

'...I'm sorry sonny, but you held the traffic up for 30 seconds so that's 6 months in a Young Offenders Home.'

According to Wikipedia, ‘a persecution complex is a term within psychological discourse afforded to an array of complex behaviours that specifically deal with the perception of being persecuted for various possible reasons, imagined or real’.

It is very easy for British cyclists to feel persecuted; on the road, cyclists can get direct physical abuse from motorists who just don’t know or just don’t care. These are very rare occurrences but can be enough to put someone off cycling for life. For others, there’s a constant perceived threat simply from the high volume of traffic speeding past them, often in very close proximity which can be regarded as unpleasant at best. When we decide to use specially designed ‘facilities’, we can’t help but wonder what on Earth we did to annoy the local Council to deserve such dangerous rubbish.

For many cyclists, the only contact they have with opinions from non-cyclists is through the internet. If you decide to write a blog about your cycling experiences then congratulations! How wonderful that cycling has compelled you to get your feelings down in pixels. The problem is that internet forums and blog posts can attract the more ‘passionate’ viewpoints and arguments to the extent that a cyclist can feel quite persecuted and hopeless in the face of what may be perceived as ignorance or prejudice. Sometimes you will attract special interest groups or people simply looking for an argument. However, everyone is entitled to their view and learning the opinions and ideologies of others merely enriches the life experience. Even if they’re utterly moronic.

Another common battlefield is the local press. Cyclists can feel persecuted and powerless in the wake of people writing in to moan about an example of reckless cycling on a pavement or how cyclists should ‘pay their way’. Maybe they had a bad experience to provoke the letter in the first place.

Never lose sight of the bigger picture; the vast majority of the Great British public is utterly unaware of what’s going on in the cycling World and even less so on the internet or even the local press. It’s not that the British public is hostile to cycling & cyclists. They’ve simply forgotten the fun they once had and how simple and effective this mode of conveyance can be.

I still get incredibly heartened when members of the public attend local cycle meetings & forums or approach me when I assist at events such as Sustrans ‘In Town Without My Car Day’. They ask questions that might invite snorts of derision from more seasoned cyclists, but why should they know? Successive Governments and a relentless motoring lobby have pushed the simple pleasures like riding a bicycle from run-of-the-mill to not-on-your-life. It’s seen as something that doesn’t fit a lot of lifestyle choices (unless it’s bolted to the floor in a gym).

British cycling groups such as CTC are still trying to get over the massive shock of losing a generation to the motor car. They put on a brave face and act as though cycling will somehow muddle through in the ever changing car-centric landscape. It will survive of course but is that what we really want when we are, after all, part of the solution? This is the main area of perceived persecution for cyclists; the feeling that cyclists are being designed off the roads and not being taken seriously at national Government level by being pushed at arms length to the provinces. It is up to organisations such as CTC to not lose sight of that bigger picture and keep pushing National Government for cycling to be placed firmly on the sustainable transport agenda.

What has been rewarding, particularly where I do a lot of campaigning in Worthing, is the positive response from the public and the town council to campaigns such as opening up the promenade for cycling and the push for 20mph zones across the town. People like the idea of wide traffic free routes encouraging family cycling and safer streets across the town. There’s no reason why this cannot be delivered in towns and cities across the land through a combination redesigned streetscapes, reduced speed limits in residential areas and segregated cycling routes taking space from the motor car as opposed to the pedestrian or wheelchair user.

So stop feeling persecuted. The public don’t hate you. More often than not, they simply don’t know yet the wonders that await them with two feet or two wheels. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club thinks you’re wonderful and beautiful for reading this far. If you’re feeling down, go out for a nice bicycle ride. Otherwise The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club will come round and persecute you.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hammond?

Don't Panic!

As the chilly Autumnal mists clear, the World of British cycle campaigning finds that not only have the goalposts been moved, but the playing field has been sold off as well.

Road.cc report can be found here

Yesterday I posted the initial DfT Press Release regarding the Spending Review. However, further detail seemed to emerge in the form of Annexes to the original statement (they may have come out at the same time in fairness, I don’t wish to speculate). Below are the key points that effect cycling;

Local Sustainable Transport Fund
We are establishing a £560 million local sustainable transport fund to challenge local authorities outside London to bid for funding to support packages of transport interventions that support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions in their communities as well as delivering cleaner environments and improved air quality, enhanced safety and reduced congestion.

This replaces a range of previous grants for sustainable forms of travel. It represents a significant increase in funding for sustainable travel, which the Government believes can both support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

Responding to calls from local government, the Fund will include a mix of £350m revenue and £210m capital funding over the next four years to maximise the toolkit of options available to local authorities

A small proportion of the fund will be allocated to provide continued funding for the successful Bikeability scheme, which offers high quality cycle training for young people. For the remainder of the funding, we will invite local authorities to develop packages of low cost, high value measures which best meet their local needs and effectively address local issues.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club deduces that, as opposed to cycle training being brought in-house as was inferred before, it is being cast out across the provinces, where car-centric Local Authorities are already having to make massive cuts to their own budgets. A harsh winter will ensure that any cycling budget will be swallowed up in pothole repair, which is exactly what happened to the West Sussex cycling budget before the spending cuts. Cycling projects won’t have any dedicated funding but be lumped together as ‘sustainable transport’ – we’re being told to sing for our supper basically.

It would be fair to conclude that ‘reducing emissions’ will mean clearing traffic bottlenecks with ‘improved engineering’ and shovelling cyclists off the roads on well-intentioned but appallingly designed infrastructure such as shared use pavements. Again.

Environment
….The functions of the Renewable Fuels Agency are being transferred to the Department for Transport. The DfT will work with the RFA to consider how best to achieve this transition and to ensure that potential administrative savings are realised.

This has allowed us to focus financial support on key priorities that will reduce transport emissions and support low carbon economy growth. These include:

– Making provision for over £400m for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicle technologies. These include:

– supporting consumer incentives for electric and other low emission cars throughout the life of this Parliament. We will continue to monitor the most effective way to deliver this investment, with the first review of the Plug In Car grant in 2012;

– continued investment in electric vehicle recharging infrastructure (Plugged In Places);
– research and development.
– Supporting the key elements of the carbon-saving transport programmes that are delivered by the Energy Saving Trust and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, while working with both organisations to achieve efficiencies. Details will be confirmed shortly.

Believe it or not, the majority of us already own at least two modes of low carbon transport.  To locate the first, simply look down. Then you can use that low carbon form of transport to go and get another form of low carbon transport, your bicycle!  No mass building of power stations or carbon intensive construction of ultra low carbon cars with its required infrastructure necessary. If this country put its trust in walking and cycling for a change, at least this country won’t completely shut down in a power cut.  

Road Safety
As part of the simplification and radical devolution of local government finance, the Coalition Government will no longer be providing a specific ring-fenced grant to support road safety delivery and enforcement – including camera enforcement – at local level. This funding stream is being wrapped up into the wider local government funding settlement, and allocated by formula. These reforms will give greater autonomy and flexibility to local authorities in deciding how best to tackle their road safety problems. Additionally, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will offer local authorities the opportunity to bid for funding for schemes offering safety as well as other local benefits.

Nationally, we are reducing the resources allocated to road safety research and marketing, distributing more of the available money instead for use in local targeted initiatives. We will reduce the THINK! budget by £12m per annum by 2014/15, so we will be focusing national marketing activity on those road users which represent the highest risks to others, and for whom a marketing approach is proven to be effective. We will also be making full use of lower cost mechanisms – such as social networking and the new educational courses – to target delivery cost-effectively and working closely with commercial partners to communicate key road safety messages. This approach has already proved successful; for example, 32,000 motorcyclists have joined a THINK! BIKER Facebook page launched earlier this year.

Motorised traffic isn’t a road safety problem in the eyes of DfT. If it can be said that ‘an Englishmans home is his castle’, it’s even more so with his motor car. All those that choose to joust with him on a bicycle will be expected to wear a full set of armour.

 The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club suggests that the DfT should embrace social media by repeatedly putting out the following message on Twitter, ‘Don’t look at this. Concentrate on the road’. That should help motorists. Until they get distracted by the radio.

It would be easy to write an apocalyptic conclusion from all this. The major cycling organisations have until March 2011 to work out where their cycling strategies go from here. However, cycling will never go away, as hard as Mr Hammond may try. We have to remain focussed on the DfT, and higher up with part-time cyclist David Cameron (to be fair it must be difficult to get out these days) until someone sees sense that cycling, walking and improved access benefits all as opposed to the macho big business posturing of High Speed Rail (which will only benefit larger towns and cities as opposed to the countryside it will machete through) or making roads even more unusable for those wishing not to travel by private car. 

In the spirit of private enterprise and franchising, the Low Fidelity Bicycle Club recommends that we invite Fietsberaad to take over sustainable transport infrastructure guidance as no-one in the DfT or Local Authorities can design anything properly.

Above all, stay happy and keep singing

..Ms Pendleton goes off to town on Reynolds 531
She does it ‘cos it’s quicker
and she’s knows it’s way more fun

So who do you think you are kidding Mr Hammond,
if you think old cycling’s done

(with sincere apologies to Bud Flannigan!)

Department for Transport – Spending Review 2010 Press Release

Over the course of the Spending Review period, The Department for Transport will reduce resource spending by 21% in real terms, and capital spending by 11% in real terms. The Department’s Administration budget will be reduced by 33%.

By making tough decisions now the Department can invest in vital transport infrastructure and greener technology to boost economic recovery.

Department of Transport          
           
      £ billion    
  2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Resource DEL1 5.1 5.3 5.0 5.0 4.4
Capital DEL 7.7 7.7 8.1 7.5 7.5
Total DEL 12.8 13.0 13.1 12.5 12.0
           
1 In this table, Resource DEL excludes depreciation

The Department will manage these reductions and support deficit reduction while maintaining high levels of investment by taking the following difficult but necessary decisions:

· Increasing regulated rail fares from the current RPI + 1% annual increase to RPI +3% for three years from January 2012. This fare increase will mean the government can deliver priority capacity improvements on the rail network to relieve overcrowding on routes into major cities. However, because Government recognises the impact this will have on passengers, particularly at a time of high inflation, this fare rise will be delayed until January 2012.

· Continuing with the previous government’s policy to link eligibility for concessionary bus fares to pension age changes and reform reimbursement, whilst maintaining the statutory entitlement for concessionary bus travel, ensuring that older people can maintain greater freedom and independence.

· Increasing charges for the Dartford Crossing. Subject to consultation, prices will increase from £1.50 to £2.00 in 2011, then to £2.50 in 2012. The Department and the Highways Agency are developing options to improve the crossing for motorists including: exploring a new additional crossing; using free flow charging to improve efficiency; and removing charges to aid flow when congestion is most severe. The increased charges will be used to fund this work.

· Reducing bus subsidies paid directly to operators by 20 percent will save over £300million by 2014/15 and Government will work with bus operators and local government to examine smarter ways of administering this subsidy to get better results for passengers and taxpayers.

· Strengthened scrutiny and transparency for Transport for London (TfL)’s investment programme, including benchmarking of London Underground costs, will help to support the efficiency and economy of these programmes. Whilst investment in the London Underground will be maintained, TfL will need to accommodate a 28% reduction to the remainder of their GLA transport grant by 2014/15.

By taking these tough decisions now, the Government will be able to pursue vital transport schemes across all regions to support economic growth and increase the sustainability of the country’s transport system. These include:

· Over £10 billion funding for the national and local road networks, and public transport schemes in Britain’s major cities. This will include widening the remaining section of the A11 to provide a continuous dual carriageway link between Norwich and the M11; improving the junction between the M4 and M5; easing congestion on the M1 between junctions 28 and 31; route extension and capacity increases on the Midland Metro; investing in the Mersey Gateway Bridge; improving the A23 Handcross to Warninglid; upgrading the Tyne and Wear Metro; improving the Tees Valley bus network for passengers; introducing a managed motorway scheme between junctions 25 to 30 of the M62; and improving accessibility to Leeds rail station. Significant cost reductions will be made across the programmes.

· £14 billion funding over the spending review period to Network Rail to support maintenance and investment, including major improvements to the East Coast Mainline, station upgrades at Birmingham New Street and network improvements in Yorkshire, and major signalling replacement programme around Newport and Cardiff and increased line speeds and network capacity on the Barry to Cardiff corridor, funding for Network Rail to proceed with investment to deliver faster journeys in the North West, and Government support for investment to improve journey reliability on Great Western Main Line services to Wales.

· Crossrail will proceed in its entirety, providing an additional 10 percent capacity to London’s rail network, while Government will continue to seek efficiency savings to maximise value for money.

· Spending on upgrading the London Underground network will be protected.

· A national charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and an incentive of up to £5000 for the purchase of ultra-low carbon cars, supporting both UK manufacturing and sustainable travel options.

· Subject to consultation the Government is proceeding with its plans to deliver a new high speed rail network, and will bring forward legislation during this Parliament to allow construction to proceed.

· The Government’s intention is to proceed with PFI projects, which will deliver sustained improvements in highways maintenance in Sheffield, Hounslow and the Isle of Wight and extend the Nottingham tram network with two new lines. The Government will work urgently with the four local authorities to establish how the projects can be delivered affordably in order to deliver the much needed benefits.

To ensure continued efficiencies across transport spending, the DfT will drive more fundamental reforms to how money is spent, including:

· Rail. Network Rail has already been tasked by the Office of Rail Regulation to deliver 21 percent of efficiency savings over the current regulatory period to 2013-14. The Government will be: promoting reform based on the evidence of the McNulty Review; making Network Rail more accountable to its customers; and enhancing competition through encouraging Network Rail to widen the pool of suppliers involved in infrastructure work.

· Public Bodies Reform: improving accountability, promoting efficiency and generating valuable savings to the taxpayer over the parliament by abolishing six of the department’s public bodies.

· Highways Agency: introducing immediate reforms to the performance management regime in the HA, including the appointment of a non executive chair, a clearer output specification and expert advice on benchmarking costs. Better management of contracts across the Highways Agency (HA) will save £240million by 2014-15. A review will follow to ensure that HA structure and governance give assurance of value for money.

In addition, fundamental reforms will be implemented to give local people more power to tackle their own transport priorities including:

· Simplifying Local Authority Grants to give power and greater financial autonomy to local authorities through a simplification of local transport funding, moving from just under 30 grant streams to just four. Local Authority resource grants will be reduced by 28 percent.

In addition to the above, the Department will be exploring a number of ideas suggested through the HMT Spending Challenge process, including:

  • Allowing the Highways Agency to charge back the cost of event traffic management; and
  • Reducing the fuel costs of Traffic Officers by running vehicles on LPG or sharing fuel depots with other contractors.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“This Government inherited a financial crisis because we were spending more money than the country could afford. That has meant that we have had to look again at every pound that we spend to ensure we get value for money.

“Whilst we have had to make some difficult choices, I am confident that our focus on the long term will ensure that we can continue to build a transport system that supports economic growth and reduces carbon. We have secured investment to allow us to go ahead with important projects such as high speed rail, support for ultra-low carbon cars and major road building and public transport programmes.

“We have taken big steps forward in improving efficiency – making genuine savings of over 21% from our resource budget. We have also radically reformed the way decisions are made, ensuring that local people have more control over their priorities.”

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club said:

‘What about cycling you wankers?’

I added that last bit but further comment shall follow.

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 6 – The Highways Agency

..what do you mean 'why has it got to be built?' It's a bypass! You've got to build bypasses...

Once upon a time Great Britain was a green and pleasant archipelago criss-crossed with a rich lattice work of highways and byways, footpaths and bridleways. However, successive car-centric policies over the decades in the name of progress has led not only to a massive expansion of highways, but the creation of environments extremely hostile to any other mode of transport.  

Carriageways were widened, then ‘upgraded’ to dual carriageways becoming motorways in all but name. Not only did they start to bypass the communities the original roads were meant to serve but severed the byways, bridleways and footpaths that would have continued to link communities, in turn leading to greater car-dependency. In the Worthing District of Sompting, close to where I live, the A27 has been so wonderfully ‘upgraded’ that to get to the houses, church and the South Downs to the north you can either run like Usain Bolt (which rules out a few parishioners) or drive a longer circuitous route. No bridge or underpass was provided.

These ‘Strategic Roads’ have also led to car-dependent development on Greenfield sites such as out of town shopping centres & business parks leading to urban srpawl.

Nowadays, Trunk Roads and Motorways are overseen by the Highways Agency.  Whereas Cycling England was a Quango, the Highways Agency is ‘An Executive Agency of the Department for Transport’. They have a big shiny website, with updates on closures either due to road works, incompetent driving or genuine accidents. They have Regional Control Centres  resembling Cape Canaveral (except instead of directing man to the moon, they’re directing mankind around Swindon) and people looking very smart and knowledgeable in suits and High Visibility tabards – essential wear if you want to look official.

They have a vision too:

‘We have a vision for our Agency to be:

‘The world’s leading road operator’

We have set five goals which will indicate progress to achieving this vision:

  • We provide a service that our customers can trust
  • We set the standard for delivery
  • We deliver sustainable solutions
  • Our roads are the safest in the world
  • Our network is a dynamic and resilient asset

To realise this stretching vision, and to guarantee continued service delivery in tougher times, we are developing our organisation to meet the significant challenges that we face. At the Highways Agency we are proud of the progress that we have made to increase our commercial awareness, develop and deliver innovative solutions, and build the capability of our workforce. Moving forward, we will demonstrate a broader range of skills, and be flexible to satisfy our customers’ and stakeholders’ range of expectations.’

Brings a tear to the eye doesn’t it?

One problem is that the Highways Agency (and Traffic Police) really believes the hype and Management Speak. Calling it a ‘Strategic Road Network’ with its ‘Innovative Solutions’ really gives all that use it and work on it that wonderful warm glow of overblown self importance – and yet more chances to wear high-viz tabards.

God, I'm Important!

In the section of their website dedicated to cycling, walking and equestrians, they set their mission statement out as follows (and I’ve provided a few links to articles within which might be of interest):

I know. It’s bringing a tear to the other eye isn’t it?

In reality, if you are a cycle campaigner, you will rarely encounter the Highways Agency unless a major new road scheme or ‘upgrade’ is planned. Their remit covers Motorways and Trunk Roads – not all ‘A’ Roads. When you do however, they will regard you with even greater contempt (from experience) than Council Highways Engineers as they have an even greater desire to get you off their roads and onto infrastructure, however crappy and dangerous. As cyclists, you don’t fit into Big Strategic Road Networks For Rapid Big Vehicles And Executives On Big Business. Like encounters with local Highway Departments cycling doesn’t fit into computer generated models.

Even if everone was driving happily within the speed limit, Trunk Roads are simply not that pleasant to cycle on with their pollution, noise, overpriced refreshment stops and proximity to fast moving traffic.  There could have been separate parallel cycle provision such as in the Netherlands. It could have linked up now cessated Bridleways and Byways and keeping vital, pleasant quieter links between cities, towns and villages.

A problem resulting from Trunk Roads and Motorways that you will encounter as a campaigner is that other road options for pedestrians & cyclists become less pleasant too. When road building projects occur (such as the A34 Newbury Bypass) they are justified by claiming that they relieve congestion elsewhere. More often than not, the reverse happens but by the time a report has come out (if you get to see it) the local surrounding roads have become more dangerous and the trunk road is perceived as inaccessible to all but the most dedicated club cyclists and time triallists.

As Noel Coward might have elegantly warbled, ‘Only Mad Dogs and Clubmen go out on a Trunk Road Run’

SPENDING REVIEW UPDATE! It looks as though the A11 ‘Upgrade’ in East Anglia  is to go ahead. This £134m scheme (up from £115m) will apparently save 3 minutes on off peak journeys! Upgrade of course means conversion to dual carriageway making it really unpleasant for anything other than a motor vehicle.  

Freewheeler has posted on the A11 in the past.

As someone has quipped on the CTC Forum,

‘Personally I think £115 million to save three minutes of my time is well worth it – my time is valuable. And in case anyone is worried about the stress and lack of exercise-related illnesses likely to arise from the new road, the government has also announced that the NHS budget is to be ring fenced. So good news all round.’

It’s like Thatcher never left!