All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling Inquiry HM Government Response

Out yesterday, here are some first thoughts on this Government response which you can see here. Do read the “Get Britain Cycling” report and our comments on it when it came out, The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report’s 18 recommendations are given below. I give comments on how the Government has responded:

1.     Create a cycling budget of £10 per person per year, increasing to £20.

The key recommendation of ‘Get Britain Cycling’, this is basically dodged with reference to some one-off and/or local schemes and Bikeability training. The idea of ring-fencing cycling money – which Mayor Johnson in London has had a stab at – is not there. Not to mention having the amount suggested, let alone anything commensurate with spend on roads or High Speed Rail.

As one blogger puts it: “The first recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling Report, that the government commit spend equivalent to £10 per head a year to cycling, ultimately increasing to £20, isn’t answered at all; instead, we’re told about investment that has been made, such as the recently announced Cycle City Ambition funds, which only apply to a handful of successful bidding cities, and not at all to towns or rural areas. t’s also a one-off injection of central government cash, and therefore even in those areas that benefit from it, cannot be considered as being “in excess of £10 per head per year” as the government today claims it to be.”

2. Ensure local and national bodies, such as the Highways Agency, Department for Transport and local government allocate funds to cycling of at least the local proportion of journeys done by bike.

Dodged with the “localism excuse”. (This funding is not ring fenced and allows local authorities to decide and implement the solutions that best suit their localities).

3. Cycle spending that makes a tangible contribution to other government departments, such as Health, Education, Sport and Business, should be funded from those budgets, not just the DfT.

In recognition of the contribution cycling (and walking) make to health, the Department of Health (DH) has announced new funding of £1 million over the next two years to be shared across at least four of the eight Cycling Ambition Grant cities

Wow!

The rest of the response is a sort of “localism excuse” based on the devolution of public health to local authorities. How much money is your local authority public health section putting into cycling, and what is it to be spent on?

4. A statutory requirement that cyclists’ and pedestrians’ needs are considered at an early stage of all new development schemes, including housing and business developments as well as traffic and transport schemes, including funding through the planning system.

Here we have a list of various guidelines. For example:” Through the revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, due in 2015, Government will be making further changes to make it easier for councils to install cycle facilities, by removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists (such as ‘No Right Turn Except Cycles’).

Not very dynamic really. More importantly, there have been various guidelines and suggestions around for years – how often are they used?

5. Revise existing design guidance, to include more secure cycling parking, continental best practice for cycle-friendly planning and design, and an audit process to help planners, engineers and architects to ‘think bike’ in all their work.

As 4 above, basically a reference to guidelines, some of which do involve facilitation of some minor changes  such as revision of Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.

Then the localism excuse: . Decisions on how best to provide for cyclists on local roads are rightly matters for the local authority” – and the traditional killer excuse for blocking support for cycling ” – … they have a duty to balance the needs of all road users when considering how to design and manage their road networks,

.6. The Highways Agency should draw up a programme to remove the barriers to cycle journeys parallel to or across trunk roads and motorway corridors, starting with the places where the potential for increased cycle use is greatest.

In his statement on 12th August 2013, the Prime Minister announced that cycling will be at the heart of future road developments.  I beg to disagree with the Prime Minster: I would say that supporting increasing dependency on car use and more motor vehicle traffic is at the heart of such developments.

There is reference to “cycle-proofing” – a buzz-phrase we will be hearing more of – which the CTC has welcomed:  “He committed to ensuring that all new big road developments will incorporate the needs of cyclists into their planning and design. This reinforced the commitment made in Action for Roads – that the Government will cycle-proof the trunk road network and minimise situations where major roads are a barrier to cyclists, pedestrians and communities.”

Will this happen? Also, if we are due to have a transport policy based on more roads and more cars, where are the cyclists going to come from?

Then there is reference to some schemes costing a few million pounds and the intention to train up engineers.

 7. Local authorities should seek to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing roads, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation.

The localism excuse again: “The Department for Transport expects local authorities to up their game in delivering infrastructure that takes cycling into account from the design stage”.

And:

Local authorities have a duty to consider the needs of all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians, when managing their road networks.” I wonder if any LAs have actually been successfully sued for not “considering”.

8. The Department for Transport should approve and update necessary new regulations such as allowing separate traffic lights for cyclists and commencing s6 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.

 It is intended that the new regulations will be brought into force in 2015. As well as new traffic lights to give cyclists a head start at junctions, other measures being considered include:

                    o Removing the requirement for a lead-in lane for cyclists at advanced stop lines, making it easier for highway authorities to install advanced stop lines at junctions;

                    o Options for joint crossings for use by both pedestrians and cyclists;

                    o New designs of filter signals for cyclists as an alternative way of providing a head start at traffic lights;

                    o Options for bigger cycle boxes (advanced stop lines), to accommodate the growth in cycling, and to make it safer for cyclists at junctions;

                    o Removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists, such as ‘no right turn except cycles’. This will make it easier for local authorities to install cycle facilities.

Not exactly setting the world on fire. This paragraph also refers to work which has already been done – I have to say that it does look like padding which is not informative to any professional transport practitioner.

9. Extend 20 mph speed limits in towns, and consider 40mph limits on many rural lanes.

Localism excuse again. “ Local authorities are responsible for setting local speed limits in line with their local conditions and requirements.”.

10. Improve HGV safety by vehicle design, driver training, and mutual awareness with cyclists; promote rail freight and limit use of HGVs on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times, and use public sector projects to drive fleet improvements.

Nothing very new in the response. Nothing about linking in new technologies to black boxes or presumption of liability

11. Strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, including speed limits, and ensuring that driving offences – especially those resulting in death or injury – are treated sufficiently seriously by police, prosecutors and judges.

This starts off with what looks like a reiteration of the “We’re all in this together” attempt to neutralise the difference between the potential effects of cyclist and motorist rule and law-breaking:

“All road users have a duty to use the road network in a safe and responsible manner and to obey road traffic law”

But maybe that’s just me…

 The Ministry of Justice is the lead on sentencing matters and has responsibility for sentencing policy

 Early in the New Year, the Sentencing Council (an independent non­departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice) will undertake a review of the sentencing guidelines for the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving. Proposals will be subject to a formal consultation.

 The Department for Transport also hosts a Justice Sub-Group of its Cycle Stakeholder Forum. The Sub-Group includes representatives of the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, the Sentencing Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police, and a number of cycling representatives. The remit of the group is to consider the present arrangements within the criminal justice system to ensure that it supports the Government’s ambition for walking and cycling by protecting cyclists and pedestrians.

 The Justice Sub-Group is commissioning research to investigate the link between police reported road traffic incidents where cyclists or pedestrians are killed or seriously injured (STATS 19 data) and prosecutions to better understand how the justice system works for these vulnerable road users.

 The Group will meet with the Crown Prosecution Service to discuss how revised charging guidance for prosecutors will work in relation to cyclists and pedestrians.

This might look impressive, but wait:

  1. The review is just about those offences where the worst possible effect (death) has occurred – not the bad driving which precedes it.
  2.  There is nothing about presumed liability in civil law, let alone criminal law.
  3. Speed seems to be ignored here.
  4. Levels of policing are not discussed. This is crucial for enforcing laws for the benefit of all road users. Without the prospect of adequate levels of resources to do the enforcing there is not much point discussing enforcement

12. Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools.

13. Offer widespread affordable (or free) cycle training and other programmes to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to give cycling a try, as evidenced by NICE.

A lot of localism excuses here.

14.Promote cycling as a safe and normal activity for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Starting off with “Cycle safety is very important,…” this section does not really answer the recommendation. It is worthwhile looking at the document to see what is really a rather lazy response.

This could have been the place to point out the lack of evidence of, for example, hi-viz. Or to review the last erroneous attempt to study the effects of cycle helmets, discredited by the CTC.

Looking at:

The Government is committed to turning Britain into a cycling nation to rival our European neighbours. This means introducing policies that will make it easier for everyone to cycle, regardless of their age or background. “ the reaction of many will be to say – well, how about doing so?

15. The Government should produce a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan with annual progress reports.

16. The Government should appoint a national Cycling Champion, an expert from outside the Department for Transport.

“The Government has no plans to appoint a national Cycling Champion. However, the Cycle Safety Forum Subgroup provides external expert help and advice.”

Chris Boardman would have been an ideal candidate – well known and personable. He is also knowledgeable and willing to speak his mind – which is probably why he was not selected

17. The Government should set national targets to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050.

This response is a combination of the localism excuse and reiteration of figures for money which has been spent.it has drawn criticism as being symbolic of the lack of commitment for cycling by the Government.

I would suggest that the failure to give targets is not that important – we have had targets before, as in the National Cycling Strategy. Unless they are backed up by plans to achieve them, with the threat of removing funding if they are not being achieved, perhaps they are over-rated.

18. Central and local government and devolved authorities should each appoint a lead politician responsible for cycling.

+++++++++++++++

So: No proper ring-fenced funding, no real pressure on local authorities to deliver, no real law enforcement or move towards making drivers genuinely responsible for rule and law-breaking, no real understanding of cycling as inherently non-hazardous and a willingness to promote it as such.

One thought on “All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling Inquiry HM Government Response

  1. Pingback: Cycling to school with the CTC again (a follow-up post) | The Alternative Department for Transport

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