Christian Wolmar gets it right on Cycling England

The RDRF has had a friendly enough relationship with top transport commentator Christian Wolmar for some time – he gave the keynote speech at our Leicester conference way back in the 90s –  although I’ve been disappointed that he’s stayed too far over in the “road safety”, as opposed to road danger reduction, camp.

But there’s no doubt about his latest piece for Transport Times http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2010/09/norman-save-cycling-money/ where he is absolutely spot on in opposing any threat to the existence of Cycling England.This is on the cards as part of the “bonfire of the quangos”. Of course, there should have never been any need for the Cycling England quango – cycling should have been dealt with as part of an integrated transport policy (remember that?) within the DfT. In fact, Cycling England came into being after the National Cycling Strategy (remember that?) was abandoned by New Labour in the 1990s, and struggled with pathetic amounts of finance.

In fact its achievements have been limited.

The Bikeability scheme has not been organised in the kind of way that driver education has, with a fully staffed national body overseeing it and making sure that the syllabus is properly evidence based and checked up on. (Are people claiming to train to Bikeability actually doing so?). The Cycling Towns initiatives have covered a very small area of Britain and generally been of the “quick and easy win” type.

But these are arguments for more support for Cycling England, not threatening its existence!

Bikeability needs clarification about areas of doubt among trainers, particularly the recommendations on when to take primary and secondary positions. The whole scheme then needs full national supervision to check it is being taught properly , and made available to adults as well as children. The right lessons in good practice learned  from the Cycling Towns need to be pushed as what is expected from all Highway Authorities.

Even with cuts in public spending, funding for Cycling England should be at least on a level with monies going towards public transport. Funding levels could be related to the external costs of motoring. Or at least using the figures well presented by Cycling England on the health benefits of cycling. If there really is a need to save a few millions quickly, maybe even the stereotypical motorist courted by this administration wouldn’t mind a crack down on uninsured and non-VED paying drivers.

But of course, if we really are going to save money, it’s time to cut the roadbuilding programme and gently raise the issue of the real downward cost of motoring being reversed.

Meanwhile, saving Cycling England and boosting i’s finances is a simple, moderate exercise which shouldn’t threaten the composure of even someone who thinks there has been a “war on the motorist”. Although that wouldn’t be a bad thing.