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.

Resolution

Clearly its the trees fault. Maybe if it had High-Viz wrapped around it and.....

 

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;

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.