Cycling England is was a government-backed transportation research, design and development program. Since 1995 they have awakened countless sluggish British townspeople to the possibilities of pedal power. In six years the number of children cycling to school doubled and the national trend of decline in cycling was reversed. The town of Lancaster added 700 bicycle parking spots, Stoke-on-Trent added 152km in newly surfaced routes, 5,000 Exeter children received “bikeability” training, and one bike path in Bristol boasted an increase of 2,000 bike trips a month–and that’s just a spoke in the wheel that got the country rolling again.
Sadly, Cycling England has been dropped by the Department for Transport. It will be ‘replaced’ by a Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). The LSTF will not offer infrastructure or practical bicycle transportation guidance to local authorities who will make bids for large and small projects.
Will Cycling Suffer?
Yes! A well-traveled 2.5 mile stretch of safe road is already threatened. The bicycle highway is credited with increasing ridership in the area by 75%. Now the road faces demolition–an act that would cost an estimated $2 million.
Replacing a successful cycling program that has proven to engage and benefit the population (stronger & healthier citizenry, zero emissions) is a leap in the wrong direction. The move towards localization is made with the hope that authorities will prioritize sustainable transport, but levels of investment and improvement will not be monitored. Some towns (Cambridge) have campaigns that push for comprehensive cycling components to transportation planning and design, while others (Exeter) won’t even be able to maintain a website dedicated to their citizen cyclists. It is clear that many will lose out on larger LSTF lobbying efforts.
If the UK is serious about reducing emissions (they have stated a goal of reducing emissions to 60% of 1990 levels by 2030) then it stands to reason they should not be shutting down a productive hub of alternative transportation research and outreach. Instead, they ought to reinvest in the comprehensive, national cycling program. The returns could be tremendous and reach far beyond a reduction in emissions.
“On the basis of the NTS [National Travel Survey] data, the cumulative cost in terms of health, congestion and pollution that would have been avoided had the number of cycle trips remained at the 1995 level is £600 million”- valuing-the-benefits-of-cycling-full [pdf]
For more of Cycling England’s research and accomplishments take a look here.
Article by Allison Leahy, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.