Yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions, Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge asked a question about the Get Britain Cycling report which was released yesterday.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Today sees the publication of the all-party cycling group’s report “Get Britain Cycling”, which calls for leadership from the very top on this issue. Will the Prime Minister look at the report, make sure that he produces a cross-departmental action plan and give his personal commitment and leadership to get Britain cycling? [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker: Order. Members on both sides are very discourteous to the good doctor. I cannot for the life of me fathom why there are groans whenever I call the good doctor, but it is very unsatisfactory.
The Prime Minister: I do not always agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, but on this occasion he is absolutely right and the House should heed what he says: we should be doing much more to encourage cycling. The report has many good points. I commend what the Mayor of London has done in London to promote cycling, and I hope local authorities can follow his lead in making sure that we do more.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 13 February (WA 169), whether cyclists are subject to 20 miles per hour speed limits; and, if so, what penalties are available for cyclists who break the limit.
Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
Cyclists are not subject to the general prohibition on exceeding the maximum speed limit on the road.
The guidance document is an amazing publication and I believe it should be a model for how transport funding is allocated. In the introduction along the report states that across OECD members there are “ambitions for cycling are growing to move cycling to the mainstream offering it as a realistic choice for quick, reliable and convenient short journeys within cities”. It supports the idea that we are “facing declining levels of physical activity together with a range of public health impacts” and that these are “influenced in part by car dependency and sedentary lifestyles” and that there is “a significant opportunity to improve integration of transport and health”.
It identifies that “mainstreaming cycling and walking offers a cost effective way to relieve congestion and improve the quality of life within the city”.
These are big statements and idea’s that I fully support however they are not backed up by the levels of investment required. There are 28 cities eligible for funding however there will be a maximum of 3 Cycle City Ambition Grants awarded, the DfT expect to “provide funding to successful applicants of the equivalent of around £10 per head of population over 2 years”, they also “expect a commitment to longer-term support from the cities themselves”. The Netherlands is recognised as one of the world leaders in cycling, the Dutch are estimated to spend £30-£40 per head on an ongoing annual basis. The Cycle City Ambition Grants will provide £10 per head for 3 cities for 2 years, the Dutch spend £30 per head in all places every year and has done for a long time.
The list of benefits of cycling given in the document is impressive, it outlines the case for investing in cycling really well.
The Government sees more and safer cycling strategies as important tools for cities to unlock a range of cross cutting economic and social benefits that enable growth. These include:
a.Unlocking capacity on road and public transport networks through large scale shifts to more active commuting patterns.
b.Better linked communities enabling more choice for getting around within and between neighbourhoods.
c.Higher productivity through improved fitness and consequently reduced absenteeism and better workforce performance
d.Improved public realm capable of attracting high value business
e.Direct savings to NHS through better health
f.Better access to jobs for disadvantaged groups
g.Revitalising streets through encouraging more spending on high value services and retail through improved access by foot or bike
h.Magnifying within city agglomeration benefits
i.Creation of new social enterprises and businesses to create new services in support for more cycling
It is very clear from the guidance that any new cycle infrastructure must be “fit for purpose and designed to a high standard as set out in the Cycle Infrastructure Design Guidance” and a link is given to LTN2-08. This is excellent, all too frequently local authorities install sub standard cycle infrastructure pointing out that LTN2-08 is just guidance (even though LTN2-08 really is the bare minimum we should be aiming for). This clear advise that this investment in cycle infrastructure needs to adhere to best practice.
The guidance points to the Manual for Streets publications and draws particular attention to the hierarchy of users. I like this!
So, will my home city of Sheffield be applying for this funding? I’m not so sure. At a recent Fair Deal For Sheffield event I spoke to Leigh Bramall who is Chair of the Highways Commitee at Sheffield City Council. We spoke about the various grants available to local authorities for cycling, he put forward the idea that Sheffield City Council were cutting jobs in the Highways department and that they wouldn’t be able to provide project support for large cycling infrastructure projects with current/future levels of staffing. In response I’d like to suggest that they allocate resources in line with the Hierarchy of Users diagram in the manual for streets with pedestrian and cyclist projects taking priority over all others.
I look forward to reading the proposals from the cities for this funding.
For further discussion, Cambridge Cycling Campaign have discussed this in detail here http://www.camcycle.org.uk/blog/2013/02/23/city-deals-cycle-city-ambition-grants/
The following is taken from a parliamentary question on 17th Jan 2013. My take on this is that there is huge investment in reducing bottlenecks on the road network, however none of this money is targeted towards behavior change to reduce the level of traffic.
The LSTF is often hailed as the solution and the biggest investment for years in cycling, this may be true but is only part of the truth, many LSTF schemes only have a small cycling strand with many very loosely related local pet projects included (especially in South Yorkshire… watch this space!)
Thanks Ian Austin for raising cycling in this debate! Skip to 09:50:40 in the video below to see the discussion.
6. Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): What progress he has made on reducing bottlenecks in the road network. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): In the 2010 spending review, the Government committed £168 million for small schemes on the strategic road network. In the 2011 autumn statement, we introduced a new pinch point fund of £217 million to address the hot spots on the network. We have committed £188 million of that to deliver 65 schemes so far. In the 2012 autumn statement, that was increased to £317 million for the strategic road network, and a new £170 million pinch point fund was established for local authorities.
Nicola Blackwood: I thank the Minister for his answer, but the A34 in my constituency is still plagued by congestion and accidents. That causes daily misery for commuters on a personal level, and it also has a debilitating effect on the local economy. If the work force are stuck in gridlocked traffic, they are simply not being productive. Will the Minister come to Oxford West and Abingdon to meet local community and business leaders to hear their concerns at first hand?
Stephen Hammond: Like my hon. Friend, I recognise that the A34 is an important, busy and strategic route. We are developing route-based strategies as a key mechanism to inform what is needed on such routes. As she says, the ability to work with the local economic partnership and to look at the benefits to the local economy are key assessment criteria. I look forward to visiting her constituency.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): The House, and the whole country, will agree that one of the ways of reducing bottlenecks on the roads is to get more people on to bikes. When Ministers in the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government consider new road schemes and other major urban developments, why cannot they agree to British Cycling’s request that the impact on cyclists should be considered at the outset of all such schemes, rather than being treated as an add-on later? If that were to happen, we could avoid problems such as those at Bow roundabout and Vauxhall Cross, which have had to be put right later at enormous cost.
Stephen Hammond: I am aware that the hon. Gentleman is a keen cyclist and vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on cycling—
Ian Austin: Co-chair.
Stephen Hammond: I am sorry—co-chairman of the group. I look forward to seeing its report, which I am sure will cover a number of those issues. He will be aware that we have committed a local sustainable transport fund of £650 million, and a number of the schemes being developed under that have exactly the cycling element that he is asking for.