The Department for Transport (DfT) advertised in June for the role of ‘Cycle Proofing Policy Advisor’ specifying that ‘experience of cycling or planning policy will be an advantage, but is not essential‘ however the person would be ‘instrumental to taking forward the Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver a cycling revolution in Britain – from policies to practicalities.‘
The CTC promoted the DfT job advert saying it is,
“one of the most important jobs in cycling…An almost impossible job! Turning around a supertanker with a plastic paddle.“
(throughout this article, emphasis has been added)
The DfT did not want to reveal who was hired as their ‘Cycle Proofing Policy Advisor‘ because the role is below ‘Senior Civil Service’ grade; However…
One of the participants in the ‘Cycle Proofing Working Group’ stated on Twitter this week that the policy advisor hired is Bryony Dyer.
LET’S HAVE A CAPTAIN COOK
Ms. Dyer states in her public Linked In profile that she was previously the assistant director (senior planner equivalent) at New South Wales Airports Section in Australia’s Department of Infrastructure and Transport, located in Canberra. In 2008 through 2010 she was an automotive industry policy officer in Australia’s Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Australian’s are renown the world over for their straight-talking, to say nothing of their colourful vocabulary. I hope that Ms.Dyer is of that mould; Our Department of Transport motor-centric views could do with someone that will say,
“Don’t you bloody come the raw prawn with me.“
The policy advisor is to manage the Cycle Proofing Working Group, whose members currently are:
- Department for Transport
- British Cycling
- Highways Agency
- Phil Jones Associates
- Steer Davies Gleave
- Transport for London; and,
- Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation
One of the members, Steer Davies Gleave, is trying to figure out what Cycling Proofing is all about (aren’t we all?). Pete Zanzottera, who leads SDG’s work on cycling, included a cute cartoon alongside his article on the company’s blog, in which he stated that,
“Proving is a better description of what we need to do.”
Nope. Still doesn’t help. Let’s…
GIVE IT A BURL
In short, cycle proofing is…well it’s actually a long answer.
Recent history of ‘cycle proofing’ grew out of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry whose report on 23 April 2013, gave as its 6th recommendation:
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.
Aside: 18 months later almost to the day, the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced in Bristol new funding to aid cycling along, and across, trunk roads and motorways. Not nearly enough money, mind. Thankfully absent was any funding for cycling alongside, or indeed over the top of, railway tracks; however many rail companies did get pats on backs earlier in the week as they collected their awards for cycle provision, including South West Trains who won an award for cycle parking (regular readers will recognise the irony in that). I digress.
In July 2013, the DfT published its “Action for Roads” improvement plans. Item number 12 in it stated:
We also want to cycle-proof our network, and minimise the situations where major roads are a barrier to walkers and communities.
Apart from that mention, as noted in this earlier article, there really wasn’t any action in the DfT’s plans for cycling:
We will continue to encourage highways engineers working for local authorities to think about the needs of cyclists in their designs for new schemes.
More waffle words came further along:
The Highways Agency will need to think strategically about how it can best support non-motorised traffic, to stop the network being a barrier for walkers and cyclists.
Strategic thinking seems to have been the thing lacking if their work on the Black Dam Roundabout in Basingstoke is anything to go by!
One month on from the ‘action’ plan and Prime Minister David Cameron said in August 2013 that he is:
starting a cycling revolution which will remove the barriers for a new generation of cyclists.
Which was defined at the time to mean:
New trunk road schemes that have a significant impact on cyclists, such as junction improvements or road-widening, will be ‘cycle-proofed’ so they can be navigated confidently by the average cyclist.
On the same August day that the Action for Roads plan was published, so too was a ‘Briefing on the government’s ambition for cycling‘ which defined ‘cycle proofing’ as:
- Encouraging local authorities to design road improvements with cyclists as well as motorists in mind and to use traffic management tools and techniques to manage the needs of all road users;
- Making greater provision for cycling on the strategic road network by…
- correcting historic problems;
- retrofitting the latest solutions; and,
- ensuring that it is easy and safe for cyclists to use junctions;
- Ensuring cyclists have access to adequate training to enable them to safely and confidently cycle on the road; and,
- Encouraging a culture of sharing the road amongst all users.
What form would some of this ‘encouragement‘ take?
The answer lies in the DfT’s 2012 launch of their THINK CYCLIST campaign, which encourages drivers and cyclists to ‘Look out for each other’.
If that sounds familiar, then that’s because the charity Brake along with sponsors SpecSavers and RSA just finished a week of telling people to…look out for each other (which many BBC broadcasts took to mean forcing HiViz clothes onto cyclists).
In September 2013, the DfT sculpted the words of the Prime Minister into:
the Prime Minister announced that cycling will be at the heart of future road developments. He committed to ensuring that all new big road developments will incorporate the needs of cyclists into their planning and design.
Then DfT went further by looking back:
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.
So, all clear now? Apparently not…
Earlier this month, during the first web chat consultation meeting about the draft Cycling Plan, the question was put to the DfT:
Has the term “cycle proofing” been given further clarification? as this term seems to be subject to a good deal of interpretation.
The answer given by DfT was:
Broadly cycle proofing is about ensuring that cyclists are considered at the design stage of new and improved road infrastructure.
The Cycle Proofing Working Group are currently agreeing a more detailed definition.
I’ll be stuffed!
Later, this was communicated:
The Cycle Proofing Working Group has a key strand of work to ensure transport professionals are trained and able to design infrastructure that works for cyclists
So, no kangaroos loose in the top paddock, then!
The second web chat consultation meeting gave these further insights:
On the issue of high quality cycling infrastructure, the cycle proofing working group is making major progress on behalf of all local authorities…
…Our commitment to cycle proofing applies to both the strategic road and local road networks.
Stoked! Or should that be…
The proof of the pudding is in the eating!, so goes the popular phrase.
As the Christmas brandy was put back in the cupboard and the Christmas trees were finally being taking to the compost collection, the CTC tweeted on 15 January:
“Cycle proofing means very little at present; it’s still being thrashed out. That’s why new roads are a useful test.”
“its cycle proofing in the same way waterproofing keeps water out…”
CTC themselves wondered, on 9 July, “Is cycle proofing really starting?” after DfT rejected the Lincoln Eastern Bypass because of cycle safety concerns.
The CTC suggested that this road scheme could be the first test of the DfT’s commitment to ‘cycle proof’ new roads.
A couple weeks later, on July 23 Phil Jones noted that the cycle proofing working group got a mention in parliament and added, “Hope we get to make a difference”
UP THE POLE!
In August, British Cycling looked at the progress made since the Prime Minister’s cycling revolution promise a year earlier – they noted some work has begun but,
The current national design standards need updating to incorporate Dutch-style best practice as well as being strengthened to prevent the creation of cycle lanes that fall short of acceptable standards.
The lack of national leadership on design standards has led to major cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Wales developing their own criteria.
This is a waste of resource and will undoubtedly lead to different types of cycle lanes across the country. This situation would never be allowed to happen on our rail or national motorway network.
As for bridleways, Mark Treasure tweeted that at least they are,
At last, clear as mud – like something the MoD might say.