UK Shadow transport minister brands Gov strategy on cycling “a glossy PR exercise”, as Cycling UK puts 2020 spend at 72p a head

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UPDATE: Since the time of writing, Zeichner has challenged Robert Goodwill in the House of Commons over Cycling UK’s analysis of the spending breakdown, which reveals spending will decline first to 99 pence per head and down to 72 pence per head by 2020.

UK Shadow Transport Minister Daniel Zeichner has savaged the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in a column on PoliticsHome.

Flagging the timing of the document’s release, Zeichner says the first red flag should have been raised on “take out the trash” day – a bank holiday when the announcement was likely to go unnoticed by the press.

“Presumably that’s why they chose to publish it alongside reams of other documents and pieces of bad news without the usual fanfare – in the hope it would go unnoticed. I can see why. Because after promising three years ago to kick-start a “cycling revolution”, it seems the Government has back-pedalled. Their aspirations are lofty and laudable, but their strategy is a sham,” starts Zeichner.

“There’s a gap between rhetoric and reality,” he continues, speaking on Robert Goodwill’s intentions with CWIS.

Also released over the bank holiday was an increase to £600 million in funding for low emissions vehicles (not e-bikes, though), meaning congestion causers gets double the funding of cycling between 2015 and 2020.

Funding commitments, are the next elephant in the room, says the Labour MP for Cambridge.

“The Government claims that currently spend on cycling can be calculated as £6 per head across England. This, however, is somewhat misleading, as it includes the £10 per head spent in London and the eight Cycle Ambition Cities. In fact, less than £1.50 will be spent on cycling per head per year in areas outside of London and the cycling cities – worsening regional disparity. Put simply, the Government has drawn up an investment strategy without the investment needed to underpin it,” he continues.

The funding, which CyclingIndustry.News has compared to other transport project investment, among other things here, has been widely condemned as “derisory” but figures as prominent as Chris Boardman. Worse still, Cycling UK has obtained a breakdown of funding up until 2021. By then the spend per head outside London could fall to 99 pence by 2018 and then as low as 72 pence per head by 2020.

Cycling UK’s policy director Roger Geffen said of the findings: “This is a far cry from both the Minister for Transport, Robert Goodwill MP and Prime Minister’s aspirations to see funding for cycling reach £10 per head by 2020. While local authorities will understandably be expected to provide further funding to top up what the Government offers, it appears, at the moment, that cash strapped councils across the land have to magic up an additional £9.28 per head to meet a Government ambition.

“Despite its laudable aim to normalise cycling and walking by 2040, this strategy’s draft targets suggest that, outside London, English cycle use would eventually reach Dutch levels by the start of the 23rd century, while its funding allocations mean even slower progress.

“If ministers are serious about their stated aims, they need to reallocate some of their £15bn motorway and trunk road budget towards cycling and walking. That could help tackle congestion, pollution, physical inactivity and climate change, whereas roads spending will do the exact opposite.”

Moving on in Zeichner’s column equality and opportunity are analyses, with the author suggesting that TfL has in the past ignored “women, ethnic minorities, younger and older people, and those on a lower income” in their strategy to build cycling’s modal share. “The strategy fails to produce any plan to promote cycling take-up amongst these groups,” says Zeichner.

In London that share has risen and may continue to do so, in particular if there’s a surprise success in the London Mayoral elections, according to side-by-side analysis of the candidates.

Measurable targets, or the lack of them, also troubles Zeichner, who says the Government’s promise of a review doesn’t amount to much. Furthermore, the lack of guidance in devolution of design to local authorities comes in for criticism.

“The aspirations included in the strategy are admirable, but the document at hand isn’t a strategy at all. It reads as a glossy PR exercise recounting what has already been promised. We need to see ambition underpinned by funding and clear goals if Britain is to truly become a cycling and walking nation,” concludes the minister.

Read the full column here.