The Prime Minister’s “cycling revolution” – one year on

The Prime Minister’s “cycling revolution” – one year on

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On 12 August 2013 - exactly a year ago today - the Prime Minister David Cameron joined British Cycling’s Olympic and Paralympic champions Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Jody Cundy to announce a new government ambition to kick-start, “a cycling revolution which will remove the barriers for a new generation of cyclists.”

The Prime Minister used the backdrop of a British Cycling event in Watford to announce a major policy commitment to ‘cycle-proof’ Britain’s roads alongside £94million of funding to encourage more people to use bikes in eight major cities and four national parks. Cameron also announced the development of a comprehensive Cycling Delivery Plan to “ensure that robust arrangements are in place to realise the ambition.”

A year on, British Cycling has taken a look at what has been achieved since this announcement was made and what we might expect to see next.


What has happened?

The announcement of £94 million of funding through the Cycling Cities Ambition Grant was a welcome boost to the cities that had applied for funding. It meant that, with local contributions, the eight cities in receipt of funding – which included Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham - came close to receiving the £10 per head minimum level of funding recommended in the Get Britain Cycling report.

That funding is due to end in March, although another pot of funding - the Local Sustainable Transport Fund - has also provided capital for projects which increase the use of sustainable transport includingbuses, electric cars, walking and cycling. This funding is due to end in 2016.

These funding streams will then be replaced by the Single Local Growth fund which encompasses spending on all aspects of local growth, not just transport options. British Cycling’s fear is that this funding will prioritise major transport and housing projects over the growth of cycling.

What is missing?

British Cycling meticulously plans for success and that can only be done successfully with a long-term plan and sufficient funding to do the job. Currently it is still the case that there is no national budget for cycling. This means that local authorities are living from hand to mouth, unable to plan for future cycling projects. For the cycling revolution to take root there must be an annual, ring-fenced cycling budget to allow local authorities nationwide to deliver their long term ambitions for cycling.


What has happened?

British Cycling’s vision to design cycling back into all major roads and junctions received strong backing from the prime minister on 12 August. As a result, the Highways Agency now has a strategic lead dedicated to cycle-proofing, has implemented an annual cycling budget and is updating training packages for engineers to improve design standards for cycling.

The Department for Transport has also approved the introduction of new traffic signs to enable more convenient and safer routes for cycling. A working group is looking at how best to implement a measure that would see all new transport projects accommodating the needs of cyclists from the start rather than it being an afterthought.

What is missing?

One of the most important requirements in developing a cycling network is a commitment to high standards of design to ensure cycling is a convenient mode of transport. The current national design standards need updating to incorporate Dutch-style best practice as well as being strengthened to prevent the creation of cycle lanes that fall short of acceptable standards.

The lack of national leadership on design standards has led to major cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Wales developing their own criteria. This is a waste of resource and will undoubtedly lead to different types of cycle lanes across the country. This situation would never be allowed to happen on our rail or national motorway network.

Cycling Delivery Plan

What has happened?

Last year the government promised that a comprehensive Cycling Delivery Plan would be published this autumn. We are still waiting for the plan but it seems likely it will be published in the next few days. British Cycling hopes that the plan will address all of the recommendations made in the Get Britain Cycling report, including action on dangerous HGVs, improving how the justice system responds to driving offences and ensuring that cycle training is available to all.

What is missing?

There is concern among all cycling organisations that there is a lack of leadership across government to deliver the cycling revolution called for by David Cameron. British Cycling hopes that the Cycling Delivery Plan binds government to deliver against stretching targets.

Ever since the 1950s, Britain has prioritised motor traffic as being the most important transport mode on our roads. Changing this policy takes leadership to shift priorities and it will not happen with words alone. We need decisive action to introduce the right incentives, guidance and legislation for local authorities nationwide. Ministers across government need to deliver actions if a long-term, ambitious plan is to succeed.

As Jon Orcutt, the successful policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation said on a recent visit to the UK: “New York’s rapid transformation into a cycling city is as much a story of leadership as it is one of street design.”

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