The level of response to the e-petition set up by Times journalist, Kaya Burgess, calling on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report has triggered a response from the Department for Transport (DfT).
The emailed response written by DfT officials is part of the procedure for dealing with e-petitions once they have passed a certain number of signatories, which culminates with the petition being "considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100,000 signature threshold."
In the email (full text at the bottom of this story) sent to all those who have signed so far (57,759) the DfT reiterates the Coalition Government's commitment to "getting more people cycling, more safely, more often".
It goes on to list the various funding initiatives undertaken by the regime in support of cycling including the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) - which provides £600 million of central funding for local transport schemes. According to the DfT, 94 of the 96 initiatives so far funded "contain a cycling element'.
The response also lists the £107 million in new money allocated in the last 12 months to support safety and community links to encourage more cycling, and the £42 million Cycle City Ambition fund.
Critics however will point out that the LSTF money, while undoubtedly welcome, is spread over a number of years and of course while £600 million is undoubtedly a lot, by no means all of that money is being spend on cycling, unlike the budget of Cycling England.
One of the first actions of this government was to kill off Cycling England, a body which provided central leadership to local cycling schemes, allocating funding, promoting best practice and ensuring that a coherent co-ordinated approach was taken towards providing new infrastructure for new cyclists.
The LSTF has been heavily criticised for its piecemeal approach and lack of centrally, co-ordinated leadership to ensure consistent quality and standards are adhered to.
While the £107 million for safety and community links and the £42 million now allocated to the Cycling City Ambition Fund are also to be welcomed, the amounts quoted also point up another problem with the Government's approach to cycling provision - working out exactly how much it actually is spending on cycling.
As far as we are aware no-one has yet managed to tease out what proportion of the £600 million is actually spent on cycling. Similarly, both the amounts earmarked for the safer transport links and the Cycling City Ambition Fund seem to change with every DfT announcement - the suspicion being that they go up as the DfT finds new ways of describing funds already allocated.
The number of local authorities applying to the Cycle City Ambition fund shows the money is going to have to stretch a long way if all those local aspirations to boost cycling are to be met. Just seven of the bids for the cash amount of over £80 million, and at the last count there were over 20 bids. The money isn't just for cities either - as the DfT's response today makes clear, the cash also has to go to help boost cycling infrastructure in national parks.
The bottom line is that even with this extra money the current levels of spending on cycling in the UK represent a tiny proportion of the overall transport budget - the successful Cycle City Ambition bid will have to commit to spending £10 per head on cycling, says the DfT.
The Get Britain Cycling report calls for that level of funding nationally - as a starting point its authors and supporters are calling for a step change in the way cycling provision and infrastructure is funded in this country. The key recommendations are:
More of the transport budget should be spent on supporting cycling, at a rate initially set to at least £10 per person per year, and increasing as cycling levels increase:
- 10 per cent of all journeys to be made by bicycle by bicycle by 2025 rising to 25 per cent by 2050
- Government funding for cycling should start at a minimum of £10 per head
- Cycling should be considered at an earlier stage in all planning decisions, whether transport schemes or new houses or businesses
- More use should be made of segregated cycle lanes, learning from the Dutch experience
- Urban speed limits should generally be reduced to 20 mph
- Just as children learn to swim at school, they should learn to ride a bike
- The Government should produce a detailed cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan, with annual progress reports.
Full text of the Government response to the Get Britain Cycling e-petition
The Government welcomes the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) inquiry and report. We will look at the recommendations carefully and respond in due course. The Coalition Government takes cycling very seriously and is committed to leading the country in getting more people cycling, more safely, more often.
Many of the recommendations in the report mirror those shared with Government by the Cycling Stakeholder Forum members. In the last 12 months we have allocated £107m of new money to support safety and community links that encourage more cycling. This is over and above the £600m Local Sustainable Transport Fund where 94 out of the 96 projects contain a cycling element. We have also introduced measures to make cycling safer, including flexibility for Local Authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas and a process for applications for further rural 40mph zones. Furthermore, we have made it easier to install Trixi mirrors to improve the visibility of cyclists at junctions.
The Department for Transport has been co-ordinating a cross-departmental effort to promote cycling, in particular with Defra and the Department of Health. For example Transport and Health Ministers shared a platform at the Leicester Active Travel Conference in November to promote better working between public health and transport planners. We now plan to take this further by establishing a project team involving more departments and stakeholders.
We are working on making our towns and cities more cycle friendly. In January we announced the Cycle City Ambition Grants and have invited cities outside London to bid for a share of a £42m grant. The guidance requires cities to demonstrate local leadership and set out a 10 year ambition for more cycling. Successful bids will receive a cycling budget equivalent to £10 per head, which is the level of support the APPCG inquiry report recommends. The £42m grant will also benefit National Parks who have been asked to develop schemes to improve cycling facilities to help support cycling as a fun leisure activity as well as a healthy way of getting around. We will announce the successful bids in the summer.
This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100,000 signature threshold.
If you haven't yet added your name to the petition calling on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Get Britian Cycling report in full you can so so here.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.