Philip Darnton, who until yesterday was head of the now extinct Cycling England the agency that was charged with boosting cycling levels across the nation - has left a valedictory message on the the Cycling England website which while celebrating Cycling England is also damning of those that killed it – he labels the decision "cost ineffective".
In his Farewell Note from Cycling England Darnton praised the organisation's achievements but regretted that Government has yet to appreciate the key lessons of "consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain" and lamenting that cycling seems to be a o be "a “party political football” to be played with according to fashionable ideology or dogma." He also pointed out that changing behaviour and boosting the number of short urban cycling trips was never going to be a quick fix.
Darnton's biggest regret about the closure of Cycling England is "the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste."
Cycling England lists its achievements over its six year lifespan as:
• Cycling trips up by 27%
• More people cycling
• Cycling to school doubled in Bike It schools
• Real health impact on physical activity
• Results not seen in the rest of the country
• Increase in line with London’s achievement
• On track to double cycling trips in a decade
The closure of Cycling England means that cycling now has no distinct voice at a national strategic level within the Department for Transport. Cycling will now have to compete for funds from the Government's new Local Sustainable Transport Funds but it will do so on a piecemeal basis as part of local authority bids for cash… and whether cycling forms part of any bid will be up to the local authoritiy. In cutting Cycling England the Government got rid of an organisation that worked and cost it very little money and it is hard to see why, apart from purely dogmatic party political reasons that decision was made. What happens next to cycling investment in this country will be a test of this Governments much touted green credentials.
You can read the full text of Philip Darnton's Farewell Note from Cycling England on the Cycling England website… until they turn it off. Or read it below now that they have.
Cycling England is just about to celebrate its sixth anniversary. Set up by the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, in March 2005 with a budget of £5 m. pa, and a team of two we have come a long way and achieved much in those six years.
Thanks to the enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment of everyone involved, from the 18 Cycling Towns, to all the Bikeability training and Bike It schemes, as well as the more recent “Finding New Solutions” projects, we have already had a dramatic impact on the culture of cycling in England.
Remember the key statistics from just three years in the Cycling Demonstration Towns:
Cycling trips up by 27%
More people cycling
Cycling to school doubled in Bike It schools
Real health impact on physical activity
Results not seen in the rest of the country
Increase in line with London’s achievement
On track to double cycling trips in a decade
With the backing of the Professional Support Team as well as the crucial involvement of Sustrans and CTC and other partners in their many schemes, cycling was well on track for long- term growth and much positive momentum. From such a great group of committed practitioners – “people who get things done and make a real difference”.
The Government’s decision to abolish Cycling England – as being a “quango” is regrettable, and cost ineffective but it is not the demise of this little group of managers which is to be lamented it is the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste. Every one of you who receive this – and many others besides – have worked to bring the idea of a real “Cycling England” to life. To each of you goes the credit and the thanks. You have achieved an amazing amount in a very short time, and already it is beginning to show right across England.
Our core hypothesis, back in 2005, was that with a consistent strategy and continuity of funding at a level equivalent to that of “cycling towns in Europe”, we could reasonably expect to achieve similar rates of growth in everyday cycling. These first six years have already proved us right, and we will all treasure our small part in that success for ever.
Unfortunately, Government has yet to appreciate these key lessons of consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain. Sadly cycling still seems to be a “party political football” to be played with according to fashionable ideology or dogma.
But the challenge facing us – of a real change to behaviour, and of much more cycling especially for short urban trips – is not a “quick fix”. We never thought it was.
So my final message as the Chair of the almost extinct Cycling England is one of determination. Every one of us knows that the challenge is worth all our effort; we all know how relevant and how important it is. In our various ways we will not give up. We know that investment in cycling works; it brings results; it makes a difference to everyone’s life. It’s worth it.
With my sincerest thanks to each and everyone of you and my very best wishes for your future….. and cycling’s.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.