The Local Transport White Paper – Soft and Very, Very Long

Fetch it cyclists! Go on, fetch the stick!

So the Department for Transport has released a Local Transport White Paper entitled ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon – Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen’

This 99 page document mentions the word ‘cycling’ a stonking 88 times.

It’s filled with nice stuff. Here is the Introduction;

‘Two-thirds of all journeys are under five miles – many of these trips could be easily cycled, walked or undertaken by public transport. We want to make travelling on foot, by bike or on public transport more attractive. Our work indicates that a substantial proportion of drivers would be willing to drive less, particularly for shorter trips, if practical alternatives were available (British Social Attitudes Survey, 2009). That is what this White Paper is about – offering people choices that will deliver that shift in behaviour, in many more local journeys, particularly drawing on what has been tried and tested. ‘

Not bad eh? Here are some more examples;

‘Encourage sustainable local travel and economic growth by making public transport and cycling and walking more attractive and effective, promoting lower carbon transport and tackling local road congestion.’

‘Cycling and walking offers an easy way for people to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. The importance of active travel is also emphasised in the Department of Health’s Public Health White Paper (Department of Health, 2010)’

‘Often there are a number of other potential benefits from sustainable transport schemes e.g. greening local transport corridors to encourage walking and cycling may also reduce the heat island effect in towns, improve air quality, provide valuable space for sustainable urban drainage, increase biodiversity in towns and increase the value of neighbourhoods. When devising transport solutions it is important that opportunities to realise wider benefits such as these are identified and properly considered.’

‘Cycling can make men look incredible, especially that Jim Davis with his physical sleekness and prowess (Worthing Herald 2011).’

Oh, alright. I made that last one up.

With all this dynamic language, you feel quite excited as you read through more bits like this;

‘For short distance travel, the challenge is to make the least carbon intensive modes – walking, cycling or public transport – the most attractive options’.

Yeah!

‘Cycling and walking present an easy and cheap way for people to incorporate physical activity in their everyday lives. As well as the health benefits, they offer other benefits when they replace vehicle trips, including reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and reducing congestion.’

Yeah, yeah!

However, then we come to the small matter of the finance to back this bold vision. Cycling, as you know all too well dear reader, receives the thin end of the wedge even when times are good. The document leads you on a bit, like a man trying to end a relationship face to face until eventually we get to a nice box outlining how good Cycling Demonstration Towns are. There’s something written in tiny, tiny print at the bottom that the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall enlarge for you,

‘Note: Future funding for cycling will go through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. £13 million has been set aside in 11/12 as a transitional arrangement to fund links to schools, Bike Club, Bike It as well as Living Streets Walk to School campaign and the Cycle Journey Planner. These are discussed further at paragraph 5.14.’

I’ll take you to paragraph 5.14 [and the rest of the gory detail]

5.14 The Department for Transport will support Bikeability for the remainder of this Parliament – until 2015. The focus of Government support for Bikeability will be on providing children the opportunity to receive training when at school. By providing training in year 6 of primary school, the Government will give children the chance to develop a life skill, enable more safe journeys to schools and encourage physical activity – which is good for children’s health. In addition, fewer school journeys by car mean less traffic on the road in rush hour and lower carbon emissions. The training is already popular amongst parents and children, and over 90 local authorities and many Schools Sports Partnerships are delivering it in their area.

5.15 Local authorities will be encouraged to integrate Bikeability fully into their local transport planning. Better cycling routes, cycling parking and adult training are just some examples of local authority measures that could supplement and amplify the impact of Bikeability in their area.

Funding for cycling and walking measures in 2011/12

5.16 The Government believes there is benefit in continuing to fund the Links to Schools programme in 2011/12. This is a transitional arrangement while the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is established. Links to School is a programme run and administered by Sustrans, a national charity, and provides safe walking and cycling routes to schools. The extra year’s funding will enable additional routes to be provided and will complement relevant cycling and walking programmes funded through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund as well as the Bikeability scheme.

More drivel on pavements then.

5.17 We are also funding Cycle Journey Planner in 2011/12 as well as Bike Club, Bike It and Living Streets’ Walk to School Campaign. This funding will enable a smooth transition from the 2010/11 programme to a point where the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is operational. Funding for the Cycle Journey Planner will allow completion of the surveying of all urban areas with a population of 30,000 and will provide local authorities and the public with a ready made journey tool at a national level (England) to help plan cycle journeys.

Or, maps as they used to be called. Unless I’m misunderstanding the situation, this to me does not help people that don’t have access to the internet, or feel intimidated about using it. The same people that probably don’t have access to a car either.

5.18 From 2012 onwards, local authorities may choose to support Links to Schools through their bids to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Councils are facing massive cuts and this puts cycling in an extremely precarious situation indeed. Cycling England had a meagre £60 million to spend each year. The pot has unbelievably got smaller and it takes 99 pages to explain this. I don’t believe that County Cycling Officer is the most secure position in any Council and it will be eerily fascinating to see how many are dropped, along with funding for Bike It officers.

It is the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ of White Papers – great build up but ultimately falls way short on delivery. This is the Department for Transport yet again holding sustainable transport solutions at arms length to detract from the greater levels of funding being handed over to road building schemes and feasibility studies for High Speed Rail 2. Philip Hammond doesn’t feature in this document, it is down to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker MP to introduce and publish it.

There needs to a comprehensive reform of cycle infrastructure design and implementation in this country otherwise all these schemes and airy fairy initiatives will come to nothing.  As discussed before on this blog and indeed elsewhere, you can train all the people you like to cycle, and even experience a slight rise in numbers, but if the roads look dangerous, then the numbers will fall again and the expense would have been in vain. There’s a reason cycling is flatlining at between 3-4% and this document doesn’t address it directly in any way. And metal boxes will continue to whizz through communities, indifferent to the pollution and safety issues that they pose. We need infrastructure standards based on the Dutch model with other best practice from Denmark and around the World. We should do this as a supposedly civilised democracy – giving more people more mobility.

Casting cycle funding out to the provinces also negates the need for the Government to have any rational debate on cycling at national level, particularly with the demise of Cycling England. Once again the stick has been thrown and now it is down to local campaign groups and individuals to obediently chase and fight for it.

They deserve better. We all deserve better.

Here is yet another video of people going about their day on bicycles but this time in the snow.

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14 responses to “The Local Transport White Paper – Soft and Very, Very Long

  1. Do you keep a watch on the 20’s Plenty Yahoo Group? I see that a post is from Simon Geller, in reply to Roger Geffen, and mentions the ‘new wave cycling campaigners – mainly blog based’ and gives a link to the cycling embassy.
    Quite a positive comment, I thought.

    • David,

      I think it is much worse that “only” 150 times. We would need to be spending 10x as much as the Netherlands to stand any chance of catching up because we are so far behind.

      Spending money on cycling provision is an amazingly cheap way to move so many things in a positive direction (child deaths, obesity, congestion, pollution, …). Argghhhh!

  2. It is amazing that our Governments are so bad at joined up thinking, only last week we had Cameron on the radio talking about wanting to cut the costs of the NHS and complaining about the UK’s poor rate of heart disease and cancer. The UK has the fattest population in Europe, being over weight is a major risk factor for heart disease and cancer, oh and type 2 diabetes, these conditions are a drain on the resources of the NHS. So how to get people to live a fitter, healthier life style? How about active travel? Encourage people to undertake those journeys are under five miles by active means and you can easily cut the cost of the NHS. But can he see that from the back of a ministerial Jag? No. Lets face it, when was the last time Cameron had him self photographed riding a bike? He just doesn’t care, and I suspect that he never did.

    • In defence of Cameron, I doubt that his security want him out on a bike.
      I’d like to see segregation. I think that would make me safer as I travel around the country on my bike. It would probably lead to an increase in cyclists.
      I would guess that a huge increase in cycling would mean a huge loss in tax revenues. Immediately from duty and VAT on fuel, and later from reduced motor sales and vehicle tax. That maybe a worry for a government. A two pronged approach of exercise and control of food marketing would probably have a beneficial effect on obesity etc., but there’d be a loss of revenues again. Politicians will not change the status quo until enough of their voters make it clear that they must. We are nowhere near close to winning the argument for improved cycling structure and, imo, which may be wrong, I don’t think it will happen in the life of any one parliament, or one town at a time.

      I was very taken with David Hembrow’s tale of the murdering our children approach. That is the sort of thing we need. It is very emotive and affects almost everybody in the UK.

      As an aside, I often imagine, from reading David’s blog and others from Northern Europe, how wonderful cycling is over there. I came across a post on an American cycling blog yesterday complaining about the poor drivers in Holland and how dangerous they make it for cyclists. It was written by somebody purporting to be a Dutch female cyclist.

      • It is definitely a loss-leader, the initial outlay added to the loss in revenue from voluntary taxes such as fuel duty. Of course money saved will be spent elsewhere, but probably on goods carrying less tax. The main advantages will come later, with things such as balance-of-trade with car and oil producing nations, reduced military expenditure to secure oil, fewer sick days, fewer EU air quality fines and lower NHS expenditure.

        The big idea being put forward at the moment is to electrify the car fleet, which is stupid for many reasons (think how many of the disadvantages of petrol/diesel cars still persist with equivalent electric cars). This would require a massive expansion of electricity generation capacity over the same period of time which a lot of our existing generating capacity is being retired. Easing the need to simultaneously hugely expand and also replace a large amount of electricity generating capacity at the same time could be a good selling point for cycle infrastructure in the short-term, with all of the other established expenditure-reducing benefits coming to fruition a little later on.

  3. Thanks for wading through that so we don’t have to! I’ve never seen a better (or more depressing) example of cognitive dissonance. I must respectfully disagree with Dexey; by their very nature all goverments take a short term view- I don’t think the government is worried about the loss of revenue, more the howls of protest that would come from died-inthe-wool car drivers as ‘their’ road space was re-allocated to segregated bike lanes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of cars (and motorbikes, and aeroplanes, frankly), but I believe in the right tool for the right job: if I have to take the family to see the inlaws 60 miles away, I’ll take the car. To take me and my sandwiches 6 miles across town to work, it’s the bicycle, no contest. And that’s what’s so annoying about Hoverboard Hammond’s apparent love affair with the electric car- the government will happily give a five grand subsidy to anyone who wants to buy a milk float in the shape of a Nissan Micra, but I have to kidnap my company accountant’s children to get him to sign up for the Ride To Work scheme? Grrr!
    Karl

    • You may well be right karlt, and if you are then we need the car drivers on board so the howl of protest is muted.
      Invoke the well being of their children; that should help. Most of the people supporting 20’s Plenty campaigns are probably motorists.

  4. I stopped at a petrol station and asked if they had any ready made journey tools, and they looked at me like I was a cyclist or something.

  5. I have read through the white paper. Okay, I admit I skimmed through the section on bus transport.

    There are some positives. The case made by Cycling England remains in tact. The Cycling Demonstration Town data is used in favour of the argument. I believe there’s are limits to how much can be achieved by a top down approach (favoured by the previous government).

    It is taken as a given, in the white paper, that the bike is a legitimate mode of transport for short journeys. The power of that conclusion should not be underestimated.

    I would say that most of the research and analysis that needs to be done to enable the UK to have a cogent, sustainable transport policy has been done and the documents exist as PDFs in cyberspace. Provided the Cycling England site is archived and remains available it will not be missed too much.

    The previous government generated so many initiatives across the piece that most local authorities struggled to cope. It became a bureaucratic game of space invaders – desperately doing enough to process and respond to all the consultations and requests for data. The bureaucrats did what they are paid to do – pay lip service to everything that came their way.

    I am moderately optimistic that the Big Society mantra entails more involvement for the public and not just interest groups and consultants. There is potential for cyclists to influence local politicians and suggest ideas for schemes that will make a difference for cyclists.

    Like Dexey, I believe that demanding better child road safety will create a better environment for cyclists. I think that the tide will turn when motorists are persuaded that it’s more convenient and more enjoyable to use their bikes for short journeys instead of the car.

    I think one of the major barriers to effective cycling infrastructure is the demographic of a typical council. Mostly retired and highly unlikely to have cycled much in the last 20 or 30 years. Our challenge is to get them to empathise with cyclists: to see how it looks from where we sit on the saddle and to get excited about the potential that cycling has to reduce congestion, improve health and relieve the inexorable demand for more town centre parking. Anything we can do to engage and persuade our elected representatives can only be for the good.

  6. I had the pleasure of meeting Norman Baker MP in Bristol last week when he was visiting Bristol to look at the cycling city work that had gone one. I did put the demise of cycling England to him and the lack of cycling funding generally (as well as the folly of the electric car infrastructure push as the government’s only supported sustainable transport plan).

    He did acknowledge the issues (unfortunately though resorting to stock political answers to most of the points). I feel he is generally on side to be honest though but hamstrung by Philip Hammond. Norman is the guy responsible for walking and cycling though and we need to keep the pressure up on him!

    In fairness the LSTF is a lot of money but it remains to see how this is sliced and diced up. It is not anywhere enough to do things properly across the country but if enough big chunks go onto cycling infrastructure it may make a difference and keep things limping forward.

    Viva la Embassy to provide the voice!

  7. The interesting thing about bids for the sustainable transport fund is that they need support from local voluntary groups in order to succeed. To my mind this means that if for example a local cycling campaign was to refuse to endorse a bid or actively campaign against it then it would be unlikely to get approval.

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