Lies, damn lies and the national cycling 'strategy'

'End of Route - Cyclists dismount'. Traffic signage at Kew Green, West London. Photo: Mark Hillary via Flickr (CC BY).
'End of Route - Cyclists dismount'. Traffic signage at Kew Green, West London. Photo: Mark Hillary via Flickr (CC BY).
The government's new 'strategy' for cycling is a feeble attempt to hide huge cuts to local transport budgets with a minute line of funds that would take over 2,000 years to bring the UK up to Dutch cycle lane standards, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. We must demand better!
At the derisory rate of spending granted to local authorities Goodwill's national cycling 'strategy' would bring the UK up to Dutch standards by the year 4,313 AD - after a wait of 2,297 years!

Following last week's awful news of a young woman killed cycling on a dreadfully designed bridge in Croydon, I woke up this morning feeling really angry about the total lack of action by our Government and in particular by the Cycling Minister Robert Goodwill.

So I decided to do some early morning number crunching.

In March Goodwill launched a supposed national cycling 'strategy' proclaiming that it would double cycling by 2040. The accompanying press release announced a pathetic budget of £60 million per year.

Central to his strategy was to basically say it was almost totally up to local councils to take the cycling strategy forward. However, the press release did not say that the government has cut almost £1.8 billion from local council's transport budgets since they came to power.

This means vast majority of councils have absolutely no money in the kitty to install the urgently needed protected cycle lanes.

There are about 85,000 km of major non-motorway major roads needing Dutch-standard cycle lanes in the UK - excluding the 300,000 km of C and unclassified local roads. The two new Dutch standard protected cycle-lanes in London cost £1.6 million per km. This compares with costs for the M74 motorway extension of £86 million per km!

Thus Goodwill's proposed national cycling strategy 'funding' would build a measly 37 km of Dutch-standard cycle lanes per year or 0.04% of the roads needing them. At this derisory rate of spending it would have built 888 km of protected cycle lanes or 1% of the roads needing them by Goodwill's target date of 2040.

And the national cycling 'strategy' would bring the UK up to Dutch standards by the year 4,313 AD - after a wait of 2,297 years!

Meanwhile Osborne cuts £1.8 billion from Councils' transport budgets

Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling held an inquiry into this new strategy and invited Robert Goodwill to attend.

The resulting discussion led to widespread ridicule of Goodwill on social media and despair at the Minister's statements, when he referred to women's hair-do's not coping with cycle helmets and the media reporting of cycling fatalities, as the reasons why cycling was not making progress outside of London!

Just as Goodwill has slashed the national cycling budget, whilst calling on local council's to do more for cycling, the Chancellor George Osborne has also slashed local council budgets, having cut a whopping £1.8 billion from local council transport budgets since 2010.

At the derisory rate of spending granted to local authorities Goodwill's national cycling 'strategy' would bring the UK up to Dutch standards by the year 4,313 AD - after a wait of 2,297 years!

This means that there are almost no funds at all left to make local roads safer for cycling.

This is yet another example of the government's deceitful agenda across a plethora of government departments. They announce grand new plans to devolve project funding to local governments, making it sound like new investment. When in reality, behind the scenes they are slashing the available budgets. In this way, they are destroying government services, whilst letting all the blame lie with the councils.

So what would it really cost to transform our major road network into one fit for humans, a network where children and pensioners have the human right to be able to cycle safely, without fear of death? The total cost of doing the entire major road network at the London cycle lane prices would be £136 billion. If we invested £3 billion per annum, this would take about 45 years.

Polite requests for sanity are getting us nowhere

This sounds a lot until you realise that the government plans to waste £205 billion on the total lifetime cost of Trident, which provides comparatively little wider economic return, whereas cycling is estimated to provide between £8 to £20 return per pound investment! In other words, cycling investment could provide a massive boost to the economy and employment, as well as enormous health and environmental benefits.

But as the current government Minister 'Bad-will' says NO, what should be done?

It is time for the national cycling groups to realise that their patient polite lobbying over the last six years has got us nowhere. Indeed, nationally things have been going backwards. It is now time for them to adopt the radical protests staged by some cycling groups in London, including Stop Killing Cyclists over the last two years.

We have staged repeated Dutch inspired Die-In's across the capital, which have brought the traffic to a silent stop, again and again as we marked the tragic deaths and called for radical action. In London, the lobbying of Transport for London and the Mayor by the established groups went hand in hand with these radical street protests.

Together, these have successfully transformed the cycling agenda, with a comprehensive protected cycle-network now being rolled out and Mini-Holland schemes now promised to create Dutch style cycle-friendly communities in all 32 of London's boroughs.

Time for Britain to become a cycling nation!

Six years of fruitless lobbying of the Minister is enough. Goodwill must resign, He is a total failure and part of the problem rather than the answer. There is enormous public support for investment in cycle lanes, with recent opinion polls showing over 70% support, which is astonishing in view of very low current levels of cycling.

Clearly, there is an enormous pent-up demand across Britain for a modern European standard protected cycling network.

We cannot afford to permit another generation of children to grow up, with their parents afraid to allow them to enjoy the freedom and health benefits of cycling in their childhoods.

We cannot afford to continue with the tens of thousands of Britons dying from transport pollution related diseases.

We cannot afford to have tens of thousands more Britons dying from inactivity diseases because they are afraid to cycle to work, due to lack of protected cycle lanes.

We cannot afford to continue churning out millions of tonnes of CO2 from our vehicle fleets.

The time for action and protest is now. Britain can and will become a cycling nation.



Donnachadh McCarthy FRSA is the co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists and is the author of The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought. @DonnachadhMc


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here