No commitment to minimum annual spending levels, no national cycling champion, no long-term targets and no central, top level leadership – those are the disappointing key messages from the government’s response, published today, to the Get Britain Cycling report.
The report, published in April following a six-week inquiry hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APCG), is due to be debated in the House of Commons on 2 September, the day after Parliament returns from recess.
Organisations such as CTC and British Cycling are urging people to write to their MPs to ask them to attend the debate, but today’s response from the Department for Transport, covering England outside London, will raise concerns over how much of the report’s recommendations may end up being adopted.
From the first of the 16 points set out in the Get Britain Cycling report to the last, the government’s response [attached at the end of this article] will make largely depressing reading for those who are fighting for better conditions for existing cyclists, and to encourage more people to switch to two wheels.
The first recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling Report, that the government commit spend equivalent to £10 per head a year to cycling, ultimately increasing to £20, isn’t answered at all; instead, we’re told about investment that has been made, such as the recently announced Cycle City Ambition funds, which only apply to a handful of successful bidding cities, and not at all to towns or rural areas.
While that funding may help kick-start progress towards achieving ambitious long-term cycling goals in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, it’s also a one-off injection of central government cash, and therefore even in those areas that benefit from it, cannot be considered as being “in excess of £10 per head per year” as the government today claims it to be.
Another key recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling Report is that national cycling targets be set “to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050.”
As with so many of the other recommendations, for instance that 20mph speed limits be extended in towns, and consideration be given to 40mph limits on some rural lanes, in its response on cycling targets, the government says such matters are for local authorities to decide, taking local conditions into account.
Likewise, on the subject of a national cycling champion being appointed – Chris Boardman seemed to be a well-thought-of and popular choice within the cycling community to take on such a role – the government, which abolished Cycling England soon after taking office in 2010, says there are no plans to do so.
Unveiling the government’s response today, minister for cycling, Norman Baker, said: The coalition government takes cycling very seriously and we are committed to leading the country in getting more people cycling, more safely, more often.
“Many of the recommendations put forward by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group mirror those that we are already taking forward so we are ahead on some of the challenges which have been set for us.
“However we are keen to go further and faster. The £94 million announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month is an excellent boost and will help to encourage even more people to take to 2 wheels.”
Many will feel that the Get Britain Cycling report, which was compiled following evidence from a host of experts from within the cycling world and outside, presented the perfect opportunity to go “further and faster,” and that in its response, the government has failed to do just that.
Part of the problem of course is that following years of underinvestment in cycling and its absence in overall transport strategy means that we are starting from a very low base, and it is unlikely that changes on the scale of those contemplated by the Get Britain Cycling report would happen overnight.
Nevertheless, the apparent lack of commitment from central government running through its response is particularly disappointing.
Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at national cyclists’ organisation, CTC, said: “The Government has made welcome progress in the past 18 months on boosting the funding and priority for cycling, yet there is an awful lot more still to be done.
“We urge political leaders of all parties to support MPs’ calls for sustained funding for cycling of at least £10 per person annually, and to ensure high standards of cycle-friendliness are designed into all new road and traffic schemes.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.