Firstly, apologies to Lo Fidelity readers about not posting as frequently as I should recently but my laptop broke and I pick it up from Mr Apple Repair Man tomorrow.
In my last post I suggested that along with the DfT, the Department for Health should also be lobbied as encouraging cycling would be of massive benefit to the nation’s health from tackling obesity to increasing general wellbeing.
Yesterday the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley published a White Paper outlining the Governments Public Health Strategy to create healthier lives and people which was given the snappy title of ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for Public Health in England’.
Cycling is mentioned a massive 4 times in its 95 pages and I outline the excerpts below;
3.20 (Page 35) ……This year, the Government is supporting walking and cycling in schools through the Department of Health’s Living Streets ‘Walk Once A Week’ initiative and the Department for transport’s (DfT) funding for Bikeability cycle training. We are working towards every child being offered high-quality instruction on how to ride safely and confidently by the end of year 6 in school.
3.32 (Page 39) Active travel and physical activity need to become the norm in communities. The Department for Health will support local areas by providing good evidence on how to make regular physical activity and healthy food choices easier for their populations, for example by sharing learning from the experiences of nine ‘Healthy Towns’, as well as sustainable travel and cycle towns. Initial evidence from the first round of cycle towns showed that there was an increase in cycling across all social groups combined with a reduction in sedentary behaviour and single car use, when compared to people in similar towns.
Workplace Cycle Challenge (page 47)
CTC, the national cyclists organisation, has led a pilot project to encourage people to cycle to work in Swindon as part of its Cycling Champions programme.
The Cycle Challenge works by encouraging and supporting existing cyclists to persuade colleagues who rarely or never cycle to give it a try. The Challenge was a competition open to all organisations in the Swindon area to get most staff to cycle for just 10 minutes or more. Whole organisations and individual workplaces were encouraged to sign up via the Challenge website – individual cyclists within those organisations could log their personal details and record how much cycling they did.
Overall 853 participants cycled 37,180 miles between them, of which around 35,000 miles were for transport purposes (ie non-recreational travel). It is estimated that they saved 3,157 litres of fuel and £3,630 in reduced motoring costs and burnt about 35 million kilojoules of energy. (www.swindoncyclechallenge.org.uk)
All very nice but at no point does it address the real reasons why people don’t cycle in the first place. At no point does it address the fact that the motor car is a major hazard to public health, in both urban and rural areas and yet nothing is being done to curb its use. You can teach all the children you like to cycle, but if the roads look dangerous outside the school gates then it counts for nothing. You can declare all the urban areas you like to be ‘Cycle Towns’, but if the councils that run them remain as car-sick as they are at present and the roads to town centres and transport interchanges look dangerous, then it counts for nothing. You can create all the ‘Workplace Challenges’ you like, but we are now at the point where many, many adults in the UK have probably never known the joys of cycling, and without training or decent routes for them to learn a new skill with the added freedom that it brings then it all counts for nothing. If road safety isn’t correctly addressed and the car finally named as the chief culprit, then people will continue to fall ill and die from sedentary lifestyles and dangerous roads and it will all be for nothing. Government Cycle policy is a bit like offering the flu jab as a cure but with people continuing to die from influenza because they are afraid of needles.
It’s the councils that should be a primary concern as, like the Sustainable transport budget, this new public health budget is going to also be thrown to the regions with a new body (‘Public Health England’…..yes, it does sound a bit familiar doesn’t it?) overseeing the spend. Much more detail is required as the White Paper is big on rhetoric, but low on detail. As we have already seen, Sustainable Transport can be thrown open to all sorts of interpretation from charging points to electric vehicles to trunk road upgrades to ‘improve traffic flow’ and ‘reduce emissions’. Expect to see some fascinating and very artistic interpretations of the term ‘Public Health’ over the coming months. From a County Councils perspective it will probably mean more ‘Pavement Upgrades’ outside Hospitals and Health Centres, bless them.
I’m setting myself a couple of New Years Resolutions;
- I’m trading in my Mountain Bike and buying a Dutch Style Roadster because I had no idea that this shop was open in Brighton. How it slipped under the Lo Fidelity Radar, I’ll never know. I want to do Lo Fidelity cycling, appease the nagging of a certain Dutch Cycle fan & local campaigning friend of mine and write about my findings.
- I want to establish a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, committed to forging partnerships with British & European partners, Architects & Urban Planners, attract funding from private companies and lobby all Government Agencies on how the benefits of cycling could save the country billions, make them look cooler and ‘well fit’ (if you talk that way) and make them feel better about themselves. I want to see the rule book on cycle infrastructure design guidance re-written as, although I believe the CTC is correct in principle on ‘Hierarchy of Provision’, it is too open to abuse by County Council Highways Departments. We have to adopt a more robust Dutch model that ‘disarms’ the motor car and creates a level playing field for walking and cycling (although the ‘20’s Plenty’ campaign is making great progress). I want to do this with increasing levels of help through the year as I have a day job, a wonderful wife and 7 month old son, and I would like it to stay that way.
- I would like to grow more vegetables and finally use that home brew kit I bought months ago.
The second resolution might be of interest to you. You can make it yours too if you like. If the Government can’t do joined up thinking for cyclists, then cyclists had better do it.