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Day 4 of The Times campaign calls for £100m a year to be put aside for cycling infrastructure

Early Day Motions in Parliament welcome newspaper's initiative, but central safety message mustn't be lost...

Besides the AA’s call for more 20mph zones, reported here on road.cc this morning, today’s day 4 of the Cities Fit For Cycling campaign by The Times has seen the newspaper’s call for £100 million to be allocated to cycling infrastructure receive support from the Campaign for Better Transport and Sustrans, among others. The campaign has also been the subject of Early Day Motions in Parliament, although there are concerns that the essential message – the safety of cyclists – can become lost as the focus is placed on individual details.

The £100 million a year to fund infrastructure, it is proposed, would come from the Highways Agency £4.9 billion budget – it works out at around 2 per cent of it – and would be bid for by local authorities for specific projects.

That’s a similar bidding scenario to that currently operating under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), launched by the Coalition Government in late 2010 after Cycling England, as well as funding including the £43 million set aside for the Cycling Towns and Cities programme, was axed.

However, with LTSF funding, cycling is competing with other modes of transport, and more often than not, it is missing out.

“You have a fund there [the Highways Agency budget] dedicated to road infrastructure,” commented Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport. I don’t see why 2 per cent couldn’t go to cycling infrastructure.”

Eleanor Besley from Sustrans, added: “I think that is a fantastic idea. I can’t think of any problems with it.”

Roads minister Mike Penning however is keen to preserve the Highways Agency budget for the country’s motorways and major trunk roads, for which it – and ultimately, he – are responsible, although as reported last month, he has appeared vague about his knowledge of which parts of that network cyclists are allowed on.

“Most cycling will be on local government roads so you are taking the budget out of national infrastructure into local government roads,” he explained. “But like anything, if anybody has ideas they can be looked at.”

While The Times’ campaign has generally been well received by cycle campaigners, some aspects have grated with many, such as a suggestion that bicycles be required to bear registration plates, a strong leaning towards helmets and high visibility gear as part of the solution to improving safety without presentation of other viewpoints, and an impression that cycling is more dangerous than it really is.

The newspaper can also now be added to the list of organisations that have led the erroneous phrase ‘road tax’ creep into discussion of bike riders, although to do so in an article supposedly putting coming from the cyclist’s point of view must be something of a first.

As we’ve said though, the general message – if not some of the detail – has on the whole had a positive reception, and BikeBiz reports that it was the subject of an Early Day Motion in Parliament by Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

His motion was “That this House believes that cycling is an extremely efficient form of transport which is good for health and the environment; supports successive Governments' commitment to encourage the use of bikes and reduce the number of cyclist-related accidents; notes with concern that the number of cyclists killed on Britain’s roads rose by 7 per cent between 2009 and 2010;  notes that a disproportionate number of cycling accidents involve vans and lorries; supports The Times’ 'Cities fit for Cycling' campaign; and calls on the Government to take further action to improve cycling infrastructure and reduce the number of casualties on our roads."

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn also put forward a motion initially welcoming the campaign, but also issuing a call for regulations to "require all new bicycles to be fitted with lights at the point of sale."

That provides an example, points out BikeBiz, of the “odd directions” that the newpaper’s initiative risks heading off in, with cyclists who have been injured potentially held to be at fault if not equipped with appropriate safety gear, for instance. 
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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