The government released its vision for a low-carbon economy of the future, committing itself to a National Cycle Plan in which cyclist is viewed `as a mainstream form of personal transport.’
This plan comes from the transport section of Building Britain's Future, the policy document released as a draft for the next Queen's speech.
However, such ambitions face a long road ahead, not least when you consider that two per cent of all journeys in the UK are made by bicycle, compared to 27 per cent in the Netherlands.
Other than the title of the plan and its aim to get people to see the bike as a mainstream form of transport, there are no specifics about what the next Labour government – if, indeed, a Labour government is elected next time – will do to implement its plan, to be published in the autumn.
The Campaign for Better Transport welcomed the transport policies set out within the document. Executive director Stephen Joseph said: "The commitments for a new national cycling plan and a joint 'active travel' strategy with the Health Department are welcome, and we look forward to a rail electrification commitment with real funding attached. However, on the ground, many local councils continue to plan expensive and destructive road schemes and, in places like Manchester, are paying for them by cutting funds for cycling, walking and local safety projects."
He added: "The government is about to decide on regional funding bids which include almost £4bn for new roads. If ministers accept these bids and continue to widen motorways, cycling, public transport and active travel will continue to be undermined and starved of the funds needed."
Chris Peck, of the CTC, said “It is very encouraging that the Government has renewed its interest in cycling. However this should not be seen as a party political issue and we hope all parties will support the development of the new plans.
"Previous efforts suffered from over-ambitious targets which lacked the funding and wider policy support needed to meet them. This time we know what works. With the right incentives, policies and funding commitments in place, there is no reason why we can’t double cycle use and halve the risks of cycling within 10 years”.
Sustrans has also offered some suggestions of its own. Press and PR manager Gill Harrison jotted down these ideas for consideration:
• Consistent sustained funding for creating the right environment that will enable all those want to be cyclists to become cyclists. National Cycle Network to be extended into communities UK-wide so 100 per cent of the population have easy access.
• Including routes to stations that will better enable integrated transport options.
• Right environment created eg 20mph speed limits in urban areas and residential.
• Training for planners, developers etc on best practice in cycle route development to think about creating the space that they would like for themselves and their families to use, and then to plan schools, shops, health services close to where people live and make them accessible by bike.
• Free cycle training for everyone who wants it, particularly the young, to encourage habit forming behaviour, from an early age.
• A high profile campaign celebrating the cool of cycling to make it relevant to people's lives, and ministers across government leading by example - normalising bikes at the highest level.
But in the absence of detail, it’s down to the bloggers and posters to websites to have their say. An interesting discussion was started on The Guardian’s website, with a whole range of suggestions being put forward for consideration by whoever becomes the Cycling Tsar. Below are just a few:
• The workplace is the best distribution network to encourage cycling as this would hit the biggest target population.
• Ban driving to school. Boost school buses and bike parking and take the Cycling Proficiency Scheme seriously. Make it as obligatory for schools as other sports.
• Reduce VAT on bikes or exempting them altogether, maybe for a "stimulus" period.
• Make cycling a compulsory part of the progression to car licence qualification.
• Make it an offence to pass a bicycle with less than a 3 foot gap between you and it.
• Safe and secure cycle parking at all train stations, park and ride facilities and car parks.
• Cycle lanes, as opposed to routes, are often a dangerous compromise unless physically separated from the other traffic but a necessary evil in city centres. The law needs to favour cyclists to ensure that the lanes are respected.
• Positive images/promotional adverts of people in normal clothes sharing roads with drivers - without hi-viz and helmets
* What do you think of these suggestions? To they go far enough, or could we introduce even more radical measures? Post your ideas and let us know.