Tuesday, 26 June 2012

£15m Is Good, Isn't It?

It was announced by the Department for Transport that £15m was being allocated to improve 'Cycle Accident Hotspots' in England, outside the capital.

First, let me congratulate the Times  and their Cities Safe for Cycling campaign on this success. This £15m is in addition to the £15m already allocated in London. This shows that sustained pressure can make politicians sit up and take notice and importantly find money where previously there was none.

I'm worried for two reasons though. First, and probably most obviously, I am worried that this is creating a two tier Britain. There are areas where funding is coming from central government and being spent on cycling, namely England, and especially London. There are those areas where little is being spent at all. Scotland being one of them. Don't get me wrong I do not begrudge the money being released by the DfT. In fact I think this is excellent news. However, I am concerned by the lack of movement here in Scotland. Each time we talk to the Scottish Government we get the same reply. We have already spent X amount, we have already budgeted X amount.....we are already doing a good job.

No you aren't.

Despite the obvious appetite for change as we demonstrated at Pedal on Parliament, the fact that the Scottish Governments own manifesto promises of 10% of cycling by 2020 and their manifesto commitments to a low carbon economy, we have yet to hear anything positive from them with regards to cycle infrastructure funding. Certainly nothing new.

Does this bode well for our possible future as an independent nation?

However, the Scotland/England divide is not all that concerns me about this announcement. It is the very nature of the announcement that concerns me, the fact that the money is going to be spent on hotspot junctions.

Junctions are by their very nature a place of conflict. Road users need to cross paths and do so in a manner that keeps everyone as safe a possible. It is absolutely correct that something needs to be done to make them safer. However, will making junctions safer in isolation get more cyclists out on their bikes? My concern is that this effort, whilst well intentioned, misses the whole point, a point that Pedal on Parliament made at our recent joint seminar at Holyrood. Cycle infrastructure needs to be Funded, Designed and Connected.

Firstly, £15m spent outside of London will become surprisingly thin, very quickly. This sort of funding would be tip of the iceberg in Scotland, never mind England. I am sure that the design itself will be fine. However, what about connection?

Great, make junctions safer, but will people actually feel safe cycling up to and between the junctions? Will this lead to a Fully Connected Network of Safe Cycling Routes? I am worried that having spent £15m on making junction oasis, that there will be a 'what's next' moment.

Great, we have some safe junctions now, but why aren't there suddenly loads of kids cycling to school? Maybe that £15m was a waste of money....

Joined up networks, need joined up thinking. They need stable, ongoing and more significant funding. They need to be designed to integrate, to actually take people from where they are, to where they want to go.

I really hope I am wrong in this. I hope I am just being a doom sayer, but I'm concerned that bits of money spent on bits of infrastructure will take us right back to square one.

We made the junctions safer for these blood cyclists.....so why don't they bloody use it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sad to say that I'm simply very synical about the £15 million, and junction hotspots. Quite frankly it's a matter of age old spin. Yes they've dug up some money to appease the cycling fraternity, knowing full well that it is nowhere near enough to make a jot of difference. What we need is proper cycling infrastructure. Junction hotspots is a trade off to appease car drivers, more than cyclists. I doubt very much if any money at all will work through here to Wales, but I emailed my MP to tell him to grab a share of it. I don't hold much hope though. As you say improving a junction is not going to get cyclists commuting. At the end of the day, every cycle commuter is one less car driver, which means the government loses the fuel tax that former driver paid into the treasury, and the government doesn't really want to lose alot of that revenue, does it?