To suggest that today’s announcement of £148m over two years is the biggest cycling investment programme ever is both dishonest and laughable. When I was on the board of Cycling England, we had a grant of £60m of new money which was matched by spending from local authorities. This £148m includes money from local councils and therefore is not even as much as we were getting.
Even if all the money were new – and it’s not – it would still be a drop in the ocean.
And remember, the Coalition abolished Cycling England which spent its money with a staff of just four people, efficiently and effectively. Yet it fell foul of the Coalition’s obsession with quangos even though it was a far better way of distributing money than directly from the DfT which has neither the resources nor the experience to ensure that proposed schemes are viable and good for cyclists. Who will police these schemes and chivvy councils who are just taking the money and the piss?
This cycling announcement, designed to take advantage of a quiet August day when news is sparse, also does nothing to address the key issue which prevents the creation of proper infrastructure for cyclists – the obsession that cars must take priority. If Cameron wanted something useful to say today, he should have emphasised that cyclists have a right to use the roads and to have roadspace allocated to them. Trying to squeeze them on to existing infrastructure with no attempt to reallocate some space currently used by cars will never work. You only have to look at Boris’s not so superhighways to see the results of failing to understand that basic requirement.
We need a policy that clearly prioritises cycling and devotes considerable resource to creating a genuine cycling culture. It was politics that brought about the revival of cycling in the Netherlands when the car threatened to kill it off, and we need to do the same here.