No punches pulled in Farewell Note from Cycling England

Decision to cut quango labelled "cost ineffective"… cycling being treated as a political football

by Tony Farrelly   April 1, 2011  

Cycling England logo.gif

Philip Darnton, who until yesterday was head of the now extinct Cycling England the agency that was charged with boosting cycling levels across the nation - has left a valedictory message on the the Cycling England website which while celebrating Cycling England is also damning of those that killed it – he labels the decision "cost ineffective".

In his Farewell Note from Cycling England Darnton praised the organisation's achievements but regretted that Government has yet to appreciate the key lessons of "consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain" and lamenting that cycling seems to be a o be "a “party political football” to be played with according to fashionable ideology or dogma." He also pointed out that changing behaviour and boosting the number of short urban cycling trips was never going to be a quick fix.

Darnton's biggest regret about the closure of Cycling England is "the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste."

Cycling England lists its achievements over its six year lifespan as:

• Cycling trips up by 27%
• More people cycling
• Cycling to school doubled in Bike It schools
• Real health impact on physical activity
• Results not seen in the rest of the country
• Increase in line with London’s achievement
• On track to double cycling trips in a decade

The closure of Cycling England means that cycling now has no distinct voice at a national strategic level within the Department for Transport. Cycling will now have to compete for funds from the Government's new Local Sustainable Transport Funds but it will do so on a piecemeal basis as part of local authority bids for cash… and whether cycling forms part of any bid will be up to the local authoritiy. In cutting Cycling England the Government got rid of an organisation that worked and cost it very little money and it is hard to see why, apart from purely dogmatic party political reasons that decision was made. What happens next to cycling investment in this country will be a test of this Governments much touted green credentials.

You can read the full text of Philip Darnton's Farewell Note from Cycling England on the Cycling England website… until they turn it off. Or read it below now that they have.

Farewell Note from Cycling England

Cycling England is just about to celebrate its sixth anniversary. Set up by the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, in March 2005 with a budget of £5 m. pa, and a team of two we have come a long way and achieved much in those six years.

Thanks to the enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment of everyone involved, from the 18 Cycling Towns, to all the Bikeability training and Bike It schemes, as well as the more recent “Finding New Solutions” projects, we have already had a dramatic impact on the culture of cycling in England.

Remember the key statistics from just three years in the Cycling Demonstration Towns:

Cycling trips up by 27%
More people cycling
Cycling to school doubled in Bike It schools
Real health impact on physical activity
Results not seen in the rest of the country
Increase in line with London’s achievement
On track to double cycling trips in a decade
With the backing of the Professional Support Team as well as the crucial involvement of Sustrans and CTC and other partners in their many schemes, cycling was well on track for long- term growth and much positive momentum. From such a great group of committed practitioners – “people who get things done and make a real difference”.

The Government’s decision to abolish Cycling England – as being a “quango” is regrettable, and cost ineffective but it is not the demise of this little group of managers which is to be lamented it is the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste. Every one of you who receive this – and many others besides – have worked to bring the idea of a real “Cycling England” to life. To each of you goes the credit and the thanks. You have achieved an amazing amount in a very short time, and already it is beginning to show right across England.

Our core hypothesis, back in 2005, was that with a consistent strategy and continuity of funding at a level equivalent to that of “cycling towns in Europe”, we could reasonably expect to achieve similar rates of growth in everyday cycling. These first six years have already proved us right, and we will all treasure our small part in that success for ever.

Unfortunately, Government has yet to appreciate these key lessons of consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain. Sadly cycling still seems to be a “party political football” to be played with according to fashionable ideology or dogma.

But the challenge facing us – of a real change to behaviour, and of much more cycling especially for short urban trips – is not a “quick fix”. We never thought it was.

So my final message as the Chair of the almost extinct Cycling England is one of determination. Every one of us knows that the challenge is worth all our effort; we all know how relevant and how important it is. In our various ways we will not give up. We know that investment in cycling works; it brings results; it makes a difference to everyone’s life. It’s worth it.

With my sincerest thanks to each and everyone of you and my very best wishes for your future….. and cycling’s.

Phillip Darnton

 

6 user comments

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Might be worth noting that your bulleted points are over a three year period in CDTs not the 6 years of Cycling England.

posted by pjt201 [99 posts]
1st April 2011 - 10:05

2 Likes

Looks like someone at DfT reads road.cc. They've already pulled the plug..

posted by don_don [149 posts]
1st April 2011 - 11:51

4 Likes

Looks like somebody didn't want anyone to see the comment!

It's a conspiracy i tells ya Devil

Damn it man......pedal faster!!

pups110's picture

posted by pups110 [68 posts]
1st April 2011 - 13:31

2 Likes

There is a Philiposterous URL where the CE team and many of those who worked with CE have posted pictures and stories of that 6 years. As Philip noted on perhaps the last public platform he appeard on for CE - a Conference tellingly sponsored by the PTE Group and supported by CTC and Sustrans, they had for the early years managed to exist without the cabinet office really noticing such a minnow, especially as the output was being delivered at such minimal cost, but eventually the results got them noticed, and he wryly noted that only weeks earlier a call from the heady realms of Whitehall, sought his availability to discuss CE matters ... later this year (obviously the message hadn't got into that particular silo).

CE lives on perhaps in a transformation phase that moves the wealth of its legacy to the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport- Cycling Forum, and - an area I personally feel is ripe for working on, where cycling specialists can actually be joining the debates with PTE's and their bus & rail operators, many of whom are slowly realising the monetary value of cycling as part of the transport deal. Give this a month or two to bed-in and consider checking out the local CILT group - chances are you'l find a place to start gently talking-up cycling to rail and bus managers.

Bike parking at many key stations is getting rammed full to capacity, yet vast mega car parks built at great expense by many big stations are not filling up - and prices are being slashed by 30% with no apparent success. Demand for cycle carriage on trains and buses (or a workable alternative) ain't going away and the punters are getting faster and cheaper journeys that beat those possible by car, that drives this demand ever upwards. Those fortunate enough to have trains which are not rammed to 200% of seated capacity, and a customer friendly rail operator will know that many key commuter corridors have well above that 2-bikes per train at commuting times, and weekend trips see even greater numbers (current bid for the record is 14 bikes on a 102-seat train - generating a massive boost to the revenue for that service)

Philip rightly rebuffed my question that CE could have been 'privatised' to operate in a manner similar to Cycling Scotland - a not for profit company delivering for government but not totally dependent on this funding stream - as this could easily add to a crowd of organisations - each progressing a facet of cycling development

Cycling's Obi-Wan Kenobi continues to work on the Cycle-Rail Task Force, and doubtless in the ways unseen that he used so effectively with CE, I only wish I could deliver so well, in making matches and getting the most unlikely folk sitting around the same table.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [494 posts]
1st April 2011 - 15:18

5 Likes

What's a "PTE"?

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1355 posts]
1st April 2011 - 19:10

2 Likes

The Cycling England website is archived on The National Archives. However, the snapshot was taken in January (latest news 4th Jan 2011). Unfortunately Mr. Darnton's farewell is not available. Goodness the Government can move fast when they smell bad PR.

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/cyclin...

posted by Henz [40 posts]
1st April 2011 - 19:48

4 Likes