The UK’s two biggest cyclists' organisations, British Cycling and CTC, are urging the Department for Transport (DfT) to dispense with red tape and allow councils to introduce Dutch-style cycling infrastructure immediately – or else risk missing an opportunity to make roads safer for cyclists, due to local authorities facing a deadline over when they can spend Cycle City Ambition cash.
Yesterday, British Cycling announced that it had secured a commitment from the government to “cycle-proof” roads in England and Wales through drawing up new traffic regulations and design guidance, including the Highways Agency’s design standards. While those mainly apply to trunk roads, they are also widely followed in the design of local roads.
Contrary to some reports, British Cycling wasn’t acting alone. National cyclists’ organisation CTC was also involved in three days of discussions at its national office with DfT officials last week – you can read details here – and says it “wishes to see these changes implemented as soon as possible.”
Besides the general issue of the sooner some roads can be made safer for cyclists, the better, there’s a more pressing reason for CTC urging the government to make it easier for local authorities to take action now rather than wait until proposed changes to design standards have been through what is likely to be a lengthy consultation process.
That’s because the £77 million Cycle City Ambition cash announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on 12 August this year as part of what he termed a “cycling revolution” has to be spent by 2015. Eight cities in England mounted successful bids, the biggest winners being Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.
CTC fears that proposed changes may become mired in bureaucracy, meaning that by the time changes are approved that would enable councils such as Greater Manchester to put in place the Dutch-style infrastructure envisaged in their bids, it will be too late.
The implication is that either, with the deadline looming, councils would be forced to put in place infrastructure complying with existing standards – or worse, that some of the money set aside for cycling, and which will be boosted by match funding at local level, won’t be spent at all.
CTC’s campaigns director, Roger Geffen, told road.cc that the organisation “very much welcomes the Transport Secretary's commitment to implement changes to the cycle planning rule-book that we and other cycling groups have long called for.”
However, he added it was essential that local authorities be permitted to take action now, rather than wait until proposed amendments had been through a lengthy bureaucratic process.
“We now urge the Department to allow councils to make these changes in full at the earliest opportunity, and to allow councils to start trialling various Dutch solutions straight away,” he said.
“Supportive councils like Manchester do not want to have to wait for changes that might happen in 2015 subject to consultation, as their Government funding for cycling improvements runs out by then!
“The Prime Minister's promised 'cycling revolution' is long overdue, and the sooner we can get it underway, the better.”
In a press release issued yesterday morning, British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman also urged for the changes to take place as soon as possible.
“I’m pleased that we’re now seeing the government begin to implement the commitments made by the Prime Minister on 12 August,” he said.
“The scale of the task to make cycle proofing happen is significant however, that does not excuse the need to move fast on pushing through change.
“We cannot be waiting more than six months for these regulations to appear.
“The time to transform cycling in this country is – as the government has said – now.”
Boardman also repeated a call for targets to be introduced in order to gauge progress towards getting more Britons cycling, although in its response to the Get Britain Cycling report the government rejected the idea of setting specific goals.
"I still feel very strongly that if the government’s pledge to ‘make Britain a cycling nation to rival any of its European neighbours’ is to be realised, then there absolutely must be tangible targets to measure progress against and an on-going financial commitment, nothing less than is required in sport or business to ensure success,” he explained.
“These measures would not only show a real and permanent commitment to a wonderful mode of transport that answers so many of our countries problems, it would give local authorities the confidence to truly back the bicycle at a local level and put long term provision in place."
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.