Government cycling strategy a "derisory plan, not a delivery plan"
Just minutes before the scheduled start of a House of Commons debate on the future of cycling in Britain, the Government finally released its draft Cycling Delivery Plan, a year after it was due.
Making a mockery of Parliament’s role to scrutinise Government strategy and policy, the draft Plan lacks any firm commitments to provide the funding for cycling needed to make it a safe and attractive option for day-to-day journeys, for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Of the 18 recommendations made by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) in its much lauded Get Britain Cycling inquiry report, the most important were the calls for Government to commit at least £10 per head per year - rising to £20 as cycle use increases - and to set a target to boost cycle use from below 2% of trips at present, to 10% by 2025, and 25% by 2050.
However, the draft Cycling Delivery Plan makes no quantified funding commitments at all. It merely suggests that "working with local government and businesses, we can together explore how we can achieve a minimum funding packet equivalent to £10 per person each year by 2020-21."
The Government's acknowledgement of Parliament's £10 per person funding recommendation is welcome. Its failure to commit to it is not.
“This is a derisory plan not a delivery plan. The Prime Minister’s ‘cycling revolution’ with its Penny Farthing budget is going nowhere unless the Chancellor finds funding for cycling in his Autumn Statement. Cycling needs at least £10 a head if we are even to begin catching up with German, Dutch or Danish levels of cycle use.
“If we can afford long term strategies for our roads and railways, why not for cycling? Given its huge benefits to the economy and the environment, our waistlines and our wallets, it is surely foolish not to.
“With tomorrow being the last day for the public to comment on what should be in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, I urge MPs and the public to voice their support today for CTC’s call for funding4cycling.”
CTC, Chief Executive
In its initial reaction to the published Plan, CTC expressed dismay and frustration that the Plan, which has suffered numerous and lengthy delays, still falls a very long way short of delivering the Prime Minister’s promised “cycling revolution”.
Meanwhile, new research - conducted at the request of CTC by Dr Robin Lovelace (University of Leeds) and Dr James Woodcock (University of Cambridge) - has demonstrated that meeting the Get Britain Cycling report’s targets for increased cycle use could be worth as much as £6bn annually by 2025 in health benefits alone, rising to £25bn annually by 2050. They now intend to quantify the additional benefits from the resulting reductions in congestion and emissions.
With such arguments demonstrating only one facet of the economic benefits of cycling, CTC will continue to push its Funding4Cycling campaign, which encourages supporters to submit their views to a HM Treasury consultation before its 17 October deadline on Friday.
While the debate was delayed due to a statement from the Secretary of State for Defence on ISIL, turn out was still encouraging with over 25 MPs making impassioned cases for cycling. The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, also made a brief appearance at the start of the debate.
Co-Chair of the APPCG, Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, opened the debate thanking CTC, among other cycling campaign groups, for their role in the initial Get Britain Cycling report before discussing the Cycling Delivery Plan. Criticising the plan and Government for their inability to make a commitment to sustained funding, Austin also highlighted that increasing cycling is not just good for cyclists but also all road users.
Other speakers included Sir George Young MP (Con, Andover), widely known as the "bicycling baronet", who was Transport Secretary when the original National Cycling Strategy was launched in 1996. Now a patron of the APPCG, he praised the group's work in bringing cycling to the attention of Government, and also the Minister for his role in producing the Plan. He pointedly called on Chancellor George Osborne to provide funding for cycling in the Autumn Statement. Julian Huppert MP (Lib Dem, Cambridge) and co-chair for the APPCG echoed comments made by Ian Austin on the deficiencies in the plan. Huppert also raised the interesting question as to whether Government was deliberately withholding a commitment to funding at this stage, so that the Chancellor could announce it in his Autumn Statement.
There was clear consensus from all backbench MPs that their front benches needed to commit to the Get Britain Cycling’s recommendations for funding and ambition. Several MPs also made the case for the cross-departmental benefits of cycling, with the benefits extending beyond the Department for Transport but also into HM Treasury, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Health and Department for Education.
Former health minister Ben Bradshaw MP (Lab, Exeter) spoke at length on the benefits of cycling and the deficiency of the report in terms of a commitment to funding. He called on his shadow cabinet to commit to at least £10 per head per year in their forthcoming manifesto. Interrupting his own Shadow Minister for Transport Richard Burden MP, Bradshaw also called on Labour to liaise with the opposition in an effort to create a true cross-party commitment to cycling.
We want to get to explore how to get to £10 per person. I have let this genie out of the bottle and don't intend to put it back again.”
Robert Goodwill MP
Jason McCartney MP (Con, Colne Valley in West Yorkshire) spoke on the benefits that the Tour de France had brought to his constituency, and citing CTC campaigner and councillor John Radford, who following an incident with a car was left severely disabled, made an emotional appeal to Government requesting that "in honour of John Radford, let's Get Britain Cycling".
Cycling Minister, Robert Goodwill MP (Con, Scarborough and Whitney) gave the Government’s response to the debate. He pressed for the need to make cycling normal for all and highlighted that this was the first time that Government had recognised in writing the figure of £10 per head even as an aspirational figure.
CTC, supporting the backbench calls for a cross-departmental and cross-party approach, will continue to press HM Treasury to provide Funding4Cycling ahead of its deadline for submission tomorrow evening.
If you would like to tell HM Treasury to provide Funding4Cycling, please spare no more than 2 mins to send your views through CTC’s template here: www.funding4cycling.org.uk.