The Commons Transport Committee who “scrutinise the expenditure, administration and policies of the Department for Transport and its associated public bodies” has published a report and a set of conclusions about cycling in the UK which amount to, mostly, a pile of poo. There are one or two roses amongst the crappy conclusions, but mostly it’s poo.
The report itself is packed with statements gleened from dozens of witnesses and comments from the public at large – many of these are very insightful and read as a whole it captures well the state of cycle campaigning in 2014 (and unlike last year’s Get Britain Cycling inquiry, transcripts of the evidence sessions are supposedly available). Very much worth the read. But…
The conclusions, though, are a terrible let down. To put it mildly.
In a nutshell, the conclusions are mainly a retreading of the tired old ground that has kept people in their cars for decades. And worse…
NOT GETTING BRITAIN CYCLING
The committee’s standout conclusion, and biggest stinker, is the watering down of the lead recommendation in last year’s Get Britain Cycling inquiry.
Here is what was demanded back then:
Create a cycling budget of at least £10 per person per year, increasing to £20
The committee notes that inquiry recommendation (on the last page before the conclusion) but then, without any reference to evidence or statements made in its report, pisses all over it:
We call on the Government to set out an ambition to reach £10 per head by 2020
Poo. Stinky iky wipe-your-feet-clean-before-you-set-foot-in-this-house-mister poo.
M4 BEFORE SPACE4CYCLING
Currently, the committee notes, the spend on all cycling “initiatives” in the UK is about £2 per head of population. They then note that the spend allocated to roads until 2021 is a whopping £75 per head of population!
(On a related note: Direct action campaign group ‘Stop Killing Cyclists‘ are demanding just over £47 per head over the next 5 years so that the UK can catch up to Dutch infrastructure levels).
By coincidence, the day before this publication came out, the government gave the ‘green light’ to building an extension to the M4 in Wales at a cost of £1 billion.
How much is that M4 project as a cost per head of population?
- Wales (3.064m): £326 per head of population
- UK (63.23m): £16 per head of population
Big Poo. This example, like many others, demonstrates the complete imbalance in transport funding for road transport.
The committee had a chance to address that head-on, to reassert the premiere recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry or even to go further and endorse the Space For Cycling demands from CTC and LCC (to be fair, the committee do refer to some of the topics like 20mph, but that is not quite the same thing).
This is more than a shame; It is a disgrace. The committee have done a major disservice to the country: the health of its population, the cleanliness of the air we breathe, the costs to us as taxpayers.
This is why this report stinks, even with some roses amongst the poo: if the money ain’t there then all the training and initiatives and “safety measures” and “mutual respect” and all the other catch-phrases are box-ticking been-there, done-that.
Frankly, not getting the spending bit right means all the other conclusions become just sticking plasters.
- Road safety measures should aim to curb the number of cycling casualties while increasing the overall number of cyclists on the road.
How? The committee say: “This can be achieved through measures that promote the safer sharing of the road between cyclists and drivers” — but that hasn’t worked for decades.
The glimmer of hope is the statement: “reduce the risks from poorly-designed or maintained cycling infrastructure” — but that only addresses the poor quality of the existing cycle paths, not creating more space for cycling.
- Central government, regional and local authorities, should use all the tools at their disposal to promote the safer sharing of the road between drivers and cyclists.
Great more adverts about horses.
- Safe cycling should be made an integral part of the design for all new infrastructure projects.
That’s a bit better. How to do this? The committee say, “Local authorities should be required to demonstrate that cycling was considered…”
Do a consultation, tick a box.
- The disproportionate number of HGVs involved in collisions with cyclists demonstrates that the industry must improve its road safety record.
No, the government must act to remove the conflict between HGVs and people cycling (and walking). What the committee says: “We are not persuaded that a ban on HGVs in town centres would be workable in practice.”
Instead, the committee call for a “culture of safety”. That hasn’t worked; and won’t Get Britain Cycling.
- Cycle training should be available to all cyclists
Training is a good thing. Yes. You can search today and find someone who will teach you how to survive on the roads today. This is maintaining the status quo; again, not helping to get more people cycling.
- DVSA must ensure that drivers are tested on their approach to sharing the road with cyclists.
Again, dealing with the present situation; but the committee must go further and address the underlying issue of putting great big honky metal boxes in conflict with flesh and blood (and a bit of rubber).
- Government should reassess its approach to road safety awareness… ensure a clear and consistent message of mutual respect…
I respect the fact that I have no control about idiots who put my life in danger on the roads; and who thereby scare so many millions of other people from even giving cycling a go. Again, instead of removing conflict by demanding Dutch style infrastructure – which is proven to work – the committee focus on the crap we have to put up with today.
- Government should consider amending the Highway Code to promote cycle safety and ensure that it reflects the rights of cyclists to share the road with drivers.
More of dealing with the here and now rather than what should be. Yes a tidy up of the Highway Code would be a good thing but it isn’t going to make the joy of cycling suddenly come into being on the roads.
See what I mean about the rest of these conclusions being sticking plasters?
Poo. Poo. Poo.
After publishing this, I read Peter Walker’s more upbeat review of the report in the Guardian – worth the read, mainly for this point:
So why the interest in this fairly unexceptional report? In short, because it shows that even utter cycling ignoramuses – and their first hearing did, I’m afraid, portray some of the MPs in that light – can, fairly quickly, understand what’s needed to get people on bikes.
The reaction (HERE) by the Conservative/LibDem government and the Labour opposition to even the watered down funding call was disheartening too (Labour didn’t even mention funding; Government trotted out their usual mantra about how tasty the crumbs spilled onto the floor were).
Also worth reading is Prof Ian Walker’s article: Buying cyclists’ safety will cost more than £10 per head