Letter to Marcus Jones MP re Support for Cycling from the Prime Minister

Following on from comments made by the Prime Minister extolling the virtues of cycling, and my own blog article questioning whether cycling could become the ‘new normal’ thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, I once again have written to my MP regarding cycling. In the letter sent on 08 May 2020 and copied below, I call on him to support a national cycling budget and standard infrastructure regulations for all local authorities to follow.

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Dear Mr. Jones,

SUPPORT FOR CYCLING FROM THE PRIME MINISTER

I have been pleased to read about and hear the comments made by the Prime Minister showing his support and enthusiasm for cycling. These have come both from his recent ‘M9’ call to regional mayors and in this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions where he said that now should be a golden age for cycling.

Of course, I couldn’t agree more with Mr Johnson’s comments in this regard and I too hope that the clear benefits of cycling both in this time of emergency but also more broadly are recognised and that Britain finally starts to make proper, rapid progress towards the provision of cycle infrastructure that can facilitate safe cycling for people of all ages and abilities, individuals and families, adults and children.

However, for this to happen there needs to be more than the Prime Minister’s verbal encouragement. Infrastructure requires money and therefore a significant annual national cycling budget is needed. Local authorities must also be required to put walking and cycling at the heart of their policies and plans; to develop infrastructure to new standard national guidelines that should reflect the best examples of cycle infrastructure around the world.

The All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group recommended[1] back in 2013 that a sustained budget of between £10 – £20 per person be established. The upper end of that scale equates to an annual amount of just £1.3bn, still comparatively small compared to the budget given for the recent roads building programme of £27.4bn by 2025 (£5.5bn/year). Others have recommended that a £3bn budget be established for five years to really kickstart development, falling to £1.5bn annually after that time.

At this time of social distancing, it is clearer than ever that the standard of facilities in the UK are not fit for purpose. Narrow, shared use paths do not allow for the separation between walkers and cyclists that is required. Disconnected networks force less confident riders onto roads which, whilst much quieter than normal at present, still present greater risks (real and perceived) that put many people off riding bikes. Obstructions placed on what networks exist such as excessive bollards, staggered fencing, K-frame barriers etc. prevent or make access difficult to non-standard bikes or those with manoeuvring difficulties.

Whilst specific network problems are the responsibility of local authorities, regulation and guidance is required from Central Government to ensure that across the country, we quickly move away from these sub-standard facilities and instead start the roll-out of high quality infrastructure that is standardised across the UK. We must take inspiration in this guidance from the best examples from elsewhere in the world where cycling is already established such as across the Netherlands or in Copenhagen.

I have been encouraged to see that locally there have been many more casual cyclists out and about than normal. So, even outside of the cities it is evident to me that there is an interest in riding bikes that is stifled in normal times. We must not return to that situation.

It is clear that as we live through this coronavirus pandemic, and as we come out of it whenever that may be whilst still having to address the climate change emergency, cycling has significant role to play. It allows people to move about towns and cities without relying on personal motor vehicles or public transport; it can keep villages and their local towns connected reducing demand on village bus services; it reduces CO2e emissions through people needing to drive less; it keeps the population healthy through the incorporation of exercise into daily routines – the opportunity to remake our society for the better in this way must not be missed.

I ask therefore that you support and press for the creation of a national cycling budget of at least £1.3bn, and the provision of standardised national cycle network regulations that local authorities must follow to support safe, everyday cycling for all.

As always, thank you for your time and I hope you and your staff are keeping well throughout the pandemic.

Regards,

Ben


[1] APPCG: Get Britain Cycling – Summary and Recommendations, Page 7.