Liberal Democrats propose £1.2 billion per year for cycling infrastructure

Massive investment in cycling

by John Stevenson   August 19, 2013  

Tenners (CC licence by Images_of_Money:Flickr)

In a motion to be debated at the party’s national conference in Glasgow on September 15, the Liberal Democrats are considering a financial commitment to cycling infrastructure that will rival that of the Netherlands, with a proposal to spend “at least £10 per person per year, increasing to £20” on cycling facilities.

Tabled by Dr Julian Huppert MP, chair of the All-Party Committee on Cycling, the motion recognises that cycling is an efficient and safe way of getting around and that it’s good for people’s health and wellbeing, the environment, and the economy. Significantly, the motion also recognises the role cycling can play in the alleviation of congestion, a point rarely understood in some quarters.

Many of the points made in the proposal - which you’ll find on page 28 of the Lib-Dems’ Autumn Conference Agenda - won’t be news to road.cc readers.

Dr Huppert points out, for example, that three-quarters of all journeys made in the UK are five miles or less; that cycling accounts for 2% of journeys made in the UK compared with 30% for the Netherlands; that 74% of adults in Britain are frightened by the idea of cycling on busy roads; that lorries make up 5% of traffic, yet are responsible for half of cyclist fatalities; and that 75% of cyclists’ injuries occur at or near junctions.

The Lib-Dems aim to increase the number of journeys made by bike to 10% in 2025, rising to 25% by 2050.

That’s going to take money, and this proposal recognises that, rather than hoping people can be persuaded to cycle through cheap information campaigns. The Lib-Dems would budget £10 per person per year for cycling infrastructure, rising to £20, and would require local authorities to provide for cyclists in the planning system as well as in the design of all highways and traffic schemes.

That would amount to £1.2 billion per year, which has had the Daily Mail frothing about the other things the money could be spent on, like 40,000 soldiers. However, it’s less than the cost of two of Glasgow’s M74 extensions, a five-mile stretch of motorway that cost £692 million by the time it opened in 2011.

Elevated urban motorway is eye-wateringly expensive, but even if you use the widely-accepted £30 million average cost of a mile of motorway, you’re only going to get a 40-mile stretch for your money.

As well as training, workplace facilities and improved safety measures such as priority traffic lights for cyclists and sensors, alarms, safety bars and extra mirrors on lorries, the proposal, if passed, would lead to consultation on a form of presumed liability.

The proposal calls this “proportionate liability” and explains that it would result in the default assumption after collisions being that the larger vehicle is at fault.

Such a rule covers civil - not criminal - liability in collisions in all but five EU countries. It would make it easier for the more vulnerable parties in collisions, who are usually far and away the more seriously injured, to claim against the insurance of drivers unless the insurer could prove the cyclist or pedestrian was liable.

Presumed liability is therefore like the current presumption that if you drive into the back of someone, you are liable. It doesn’t reverse the criminal presumption of innocence, but makes it far easier for someone who may also be struggling with injuries sustained in a crash to get a settlement.

30 user comments

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Tbh the lib dems know they are not getting in so they can make these proposals without having to worry that much.

posted by VeNT [38 posts]
19th August 2013 - 19:46

9 Likes

You're probably right, but it's at least a bit heartening that one of the big three is tabling some seriously pro-cycling ideas.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1125 posts]
19th August 2013 - 20:04

7 Likes

Remember when they said that students wouldn't pay fees? Yeah...that happened.

posted by Cycle_Jim [282 posts]
19th August 2013 - 21:02

8 Likes

If a Lib-Dem told me it was raining I'd go outside to check. At least we know the Tory party will be nasty swine and the Labour party will be pathetic spineless dimwits. The Lib-Dems have sold their crappy little sit-on-the-fence souls for a one time chance at being in power and they have messed it up at every opportunity.

Pandering to cyclists with a pie-in-the-sky promise is more of the kind of no tuition fees lies that the yellow chimps told last time.

posted by crikey [180 posts]
19th August 2013 - 21:04

8 Likes

Cycle_Jim wrote:
Remember when they said that students wouldn't pay fees? Yeah...that happened.

That's spot on... they always the sell down the river.

MamilYG-UK's picture

posted by MamilYG-UK [7 posts]
19th August 2013 - 21:17

6 Likes

How dare they propose to do things that might help us everyday cyclists.

Tear into them chaps, the beggars!

posted by Mountainboy [74 posts]
19th August 2013 - 21:29

11 Likes

I'm not a Lib Dem, but the whole thing on ripping into them for the tuition fees thing really just illustrates how infantile the public political discourse is in this country (that and the knee-jerk ALL POLITICIANS ARE ALL LYING GREEDY SCUMBAGS ALL THE TIME response we tend to see on comments sections/Twitter).

OK, so if they got into coalition, they might not actually push this money through. But it would be on the table for discussion, and that alone is a step in the right direction. Let's be grown up and say that this is tentatively good news.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
19th August 2013 - 21:55

10 Likes

No.
It illustrates very clearly that the professional political class who see politics as a career rather than an opportunity to serve their country have wasted any respect they may once have had.

The only reason, the only bloody reason, that this has been proposed is because someone has noticed that cycling is becoming popular and appeals to a demographic that the Lib Dems would like to attract to vote for them.

Lets be grown up? The grown up thing to do is to treat everything suggested by a politician with an enormous dose of cynicism until proven otherwise.

posted by crikey [180 posts]
19th August 2013 - 23:04

6 Likes

aren't the lib dems currently in power? - why wait to be elected to push thru these policies?

posted by antigee [165 posts]
19th August 2013 - 23:04

5 Likes

crikey wrote:
No.
It illustrates very clearly that the professional political class who see politics as a career rather than an opportunity to serve their country have wasted any respect they may once have had.

The only reason, the only bloody reason, that this has been proposed is because someone has noticed that cycling is becoming popular and appeals to a demographic that the Lib Dems would like to attract to vote for them.

Lets be grown up? The grown up thing to do is to treat everything suggested by a politician with an enormous dose of cynicism until proven otherwise.

I'd say scepticism is more appropriate than cynicism.

Politicians are (genuinely) a mixed bag; there is a professional political class (probably best exemplified by the Labour front bench from around 2002 onward) that have (along with the expenses scandal) gone a long way to disconnect MP from voter; there are also self-serving morons, lobbyist stooges, vacuous egotists, borderline psychopaths, feckless incompetents, tireless campaigners, solid constituency representatives and a fair few who highly capable individuals who genuinely want to change this country for the better.

I don't think this is quite as opportunistic as all that. Lib Dems (as the stereotypical sandal-wearing muesli munchers) have traditionally been generally (if incoherently) pro-cycling. Julian Huppert in particular has been pushing the cycling agenda for years; OK, he's the MP for Cambridge so has a large pedal-powered voter-base but to be fair to the guy you can't knock his personal cycling credentials.

And if it is a cynical move on their part, then it's misguided. I really don't think there are many votes in cycling manifesto promises, especially when compared to pro-car policies.

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posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
19th August 2013 - 23:52

6 Likes

I assume they have a crack squad of flying monkeys ready to go as soon as the election is won?

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posted by mr-andrew [298 posts]
20th August 2013 - 0:56

4 Likes

Is worth seeing if it's in their manifesto come next election, and if it is, a closer look at local candidate, planning and implementation of pro-cycling measures, and the rest of the manifesto.

If nothing else, the slim possibility of p***ing off Rod Liddle and the readership of the Daily Fail has got to be worth a wasted vote.

posted by Argos74 [297 posts]
20th August 2013 - 6:55

5 Likes

Mainstream media are often portraying this as an expensive sop to a bunch of minority hippy lunatics on bikes. Such a shame.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3314 posts]
20th August 2013 - 7:56

8 Likes

I do not consider it infantile to be unhappy about Nick Clegg not honouring his pre election promises on tuition fees. He and his party were not forced into a coalition.

Clegg had seemed to inspire a lot of young people during the election campaign, and a lot of this has subsequently been lost.

It will take a lot for me to ever vote Liberal Democrat again.

posted by Geoffroid [17 posts]
20th August 2013 - 8:10

8 Likes

antigee wrote:
aren't the lib dems currently in power? - why wait to be elected to push thru these policies?

+1

posted by northstar [1107 posts]
20th August 2013 - 9:48

6 Likes

It inspired a lot of people to vote and its not just that they didn't follow through on a pledge, it went completely the opposite way, early 2000s fees were around £1000 end of the decade £3000 and now £9000. Those kind of raises aren't in line with inflation and it punishes people who are genuinely trying to seek a better future! It isn't infantile, he made a promise. Convinced people to vote for him and when it came to the crunch he bailed!
The coalition has turned universities into a business, universities rip students of now and have been given the permission to do so by the gov. The country is punishing its future with fees.
If you want infantile, nick clegg smells like poop.

posted by Cycle_Jim [282 posts]
20th August 2013 - 9:48

5 Likes

You do know Rod Liddle is a Labour Party member? Though that also means LibDems annoy him as much as anyone else.

posted by racyrich [134 posts]
20th August 2013 - 10:20

8 Likes

Cycle_Jim wrote:
It inspired a lot of people to vote and its not just that they didn't follow through on a pledge, it went completely the opposite way, early 2000s fees were around £1000 end of the decade £3000 and now £9000. Those kind of raises aren't in line with inflation and it punishes people who are genuinely trying to seek a better future! It isn't infantile, he made a promise. Convinced people to vote for him and when it came to the crunch he bailed!
The coalition has turned universities into a business, universities rip students of now and have been given the permission to do so by the gov. The country is punishing its future with fees.
If you want infantile, nick clegg smells like poop.

I think given the choice between joining a government, moderating the more extreme Conservative policies and giving the country the (relative) stability of an elected government vs. not having any influence and plunging parliament into the uncertainty of a minority government in a time of economic crisis for the sake of sticking to a misguided and opportunistic promise on tuition fees, I'd say the Lib Dems probably made the right decision.

In the theoretical world where the Lib Dems themsleves formed a majority government, they would almost certainly have honoured the promise.

Anyway, I still think this cash for cycling policy is good news - even if it will probably never happen.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
20th August 2013 - 12:51

8 Likes

MamilYG-UK wrote:
Cycle_Jim wrote:
Remember when they said that students wouldn't pay fees? Yeah...that happened.

That's spot on... they always the sell down the river.

Er... you clearly fail to understand the reality of coalition politics. You get to do some things that you want and your partner supports you and then you have to support your partner's ideas. No one got sold down the river, the Lib-Dems just didn't have enough power to push that one through.
If you want decent conditions for cycling, you are not going to get it by voting for the main two parties. Simples...

andybwhite's picture

posted by andybwhite [198 posts]
20th August 2013 - 13:10

7 Likes

The LibDems promise on tuition fees was not just part of the manifesto. LibDem Politicians signed a pledge to the NUS as individuals.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
20th August 2013 - 13:24

9 Likes

To be fair, their manifesto pledges were based on being the party solely in power. In a coalition as a junior partner they have only limited influence on policy

I think this sets them out as the most pro cycling mainstream party out there, which may be enough to swing votes their way from the likes of us

Of course I'd rather they were pushing this policy now within the coalition, and would hope this influenced government policy if they are part of a coalition in future.

I agree there is little chance of them getting in power on their own, and hope this is not an empty promise.

posted by 700c [558 posts]
20th August 2013 - 14:13

4 Likes

crikey wrote:
No.

The only reason, the only bloody reason, that this has been proposed is because someone has noticed that cycling is becoming popular and appeals to a demographic that the Lib Dems would like to attract to vote for them.

Isn't that how democracy works?

posted by Bikebikebike [78 posts]
20th August 2013 - 14:31

8 Likes

700c wrote:
To be fair, their manifesto pledges were based on being the party solely in power.

I think it's more that their manifesto pledges were based on them being in opposition. The Party knew before the election that if the LibDems formed a Government they could not afford to keep the pledge on tuition fees. (Guardian 12/11/2010.)

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
20th August 2013 - 15:59

10 Likes

I wonder what this comment thread would look like if the BNP announced their support for £1.2 billion yearly spend in cycling infrastructure?

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
20th August 2013 - 16:27

13 Likes

The Rumpo Kid wrote:
The LibDems promise on tuition fees was not just part of the manifesto. LibDem Politicians signed a pledge to the NUS as individuals.

That's a fair point, they were daft to do it really.

But still, had they not backed down on that point then they wouldn't have gone into coalition and introduced or pushed through some legitimately good stuff e.g pupil premium, equal marriage, as well as putting the brakes on some less savoury (IMO) Tory policies. And fees would've gone up anyway.

I'm just not really sure what the critics think they should've done instead Thinking

When I talk about being grown up about politics, I mean understanding the realities of government - which are (or at least should be) about reasonable compromises, consultation, scrutiny etc., rather than going coconuts (to use a Ryder Hesjedal-ism, this is a cycling website after all) every time a politician changes their mind about something, or a party is required by circumstance to alter or end a policy.

(DISCLAIMER - saying all that, I agree that politicians themselves bear much of the responsibility for this widespread cynicism about government.)

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
20th August 2013 - 16:30

8 Likes

The thing is that for years the LibDems, and prior to that the Liberal Party, have made manifesto promises in the certain knowledge that they would never be called upon to deliver. The £1.2B a year for cycling is just another empty pledge.
After the next Election the LibDems will either be propping up another minority Government, in which case they will drop this policy as a matter of pragmatism, or they will be on the Opposition benches where they can go back to saying what they would do if they had the power.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
20th August 2013 - 16:48

7 Likes

WTF? Just reduce the number of cars on the road instead.

posted by dogcc [113 posts]
20th August 2013 - 19:22

12 Likes

Dr Julian Huppert MP is actually _co-chair_ of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group with Ian Austin MP.

drmatthewhardy's picture

posted by drmatthewhardy [348 posts]
20th August 2013 - 22:23

9 Likes

Sadly, building designated cycle lanes marked by different coloured tarmac does not make cycling safer. My mother was on a ‘red carpet’ cycle lane when she was killed, the driver being completely unaware of the cycle lane. Cycling will only become safer if drivers who are unable or unwilling to drive without consideration for other road users, automatically lose their driving licence. Reserve prison for those who flaunt the ban. This would be sufficient deterrent for most to drive more carefully & would protect society without incurring massive prison costs. The costs saved could be invested in road policing. The change could be made very quickly at little or no cost and with a little publicity would have immediate effect.
On the continent where cycling is a safe, convenient & desirable way to get around, cycle lanes are segregated by a physical barrier. They are for the exclusive use of cyclists. If cycle lanes are to achieve their aim, there must be severe penalties for those who drive or park in the designated cycle space.

Aileen

posted by Aileen [10 posts]
20th August 2013 - 23:12

8 Likes

'aren't the lib dems currently in power? '

No. They're the minority party within a coalition. But, why bring facts into this?

posted by andyp [963 posts]
21st August 2013 - 12:50

4 Likes