Cycling boost still not enough

The news that Cycling England, on whose board I sit, will receive £140m over the next three years to boost cycling is a fantastic u-turn. Alistair Darling, whose motto is ‘Don’t do it’, had refused a similar request three years ago and allocated a paltry £15m which was doubled by his successor Douglas Alexander.
Now at last some serious money is being allocated and slowly, but oh so slowly, the government is beginning to recognise that supporting cycling is a win-win policy. I need not rehearse the arguments, but it is good for the environment, congestion relief, health and the overall ‘feel’ of urban spaces.
But as an interesting article by John Whitelegg on the Cycling Demonstration Town in Lancaster (http://www.eco-logica.co.uk/pdf/wtpp13.3.pdf ) shows that far more has to be done before cycling can get a genuine foothold in thinking on transport planning. Extra money for training kids and creating more Cycling Demonstration Towns is welcome indeed, but there needs to be a radical reappraisal of thinking about transport in towns to put cycling at the heart of the agenda.
Crucially, he argues, at the end of the day you cannot have a situation where existing traffic continues to flow at the same speed while also creating a safe cycling environment. Something has to give and that has to be the freedom of motorists to career through towns at whatever speed they want. The road environment has to be designed in such a way to encourage cyclists and that requires ceding some space to them.
It may seem obvious but it is not something that a transport minister would get up and say in this country. In the same issue of the magazine in which Whitelegg writes, there is a round up of initiatives to boost cycling in Holland, Germany and Denmark. It is wonderful stuff, showing it can be done, but if you living in backward Britain, it just wants to make you cry.
In a way, what has happened in London where cycling has more or less doubled in a few years is more by luck than design. A variety of circumstances have contributed towards it, most of it nothing to do with transport planning, though one innovation has been surprisingly useful, and that is advanced stop lines. At first I thought they were pretty useless tokenism, but actually they show that cyclists have a right to be on the roads and to have priority. But there is so much more to be done….

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