Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Cyclists Public Affairs Group (C-PAG) (IT 85)

1. INTRODUCTION

  The Cyclists' Public Affairs Group (C-PAG) welcomes the Committee's decision to invite evidence on the White Paper on The Future of Transport. C-PAG represents the major UK organisations for cycle users: CTC, London Cycling Campaign and the Cycle Campaign Network.

  C-PAG has given evidence to your Committee on a number of occasions, including oral evidence to the hearing on Risk Reduction for Vulnerable Road Users. We have also been closely involved in the development of the National Cycling Strategy and actively participate in the National Cycling Forum and its working groups.

  The focus of our submission is on facilitating sustainable transport choices, in particular cycling and cycle/rail. This submission gives broad support to the Integrated Transport White Paper, but will examine the need for the development of supporting mechanisms proposed by the White Paper to genuinely support its stated objectives.

2. NATIONAL CYCLING STRATEGY (NCS) AND THE INTEGRATED TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER

  C-PAG welcomes the endorsement of the target-based approach recommended by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the establishment of the Integrated Transport Commission to develop appropriate mechanisms for achieving them. We look forward to improvements in conditions for non-motorised users being a key indicator used by the Commission in assessing progress.

  We particularly welcome the Government's endorsement of the National Cycling Strategy targets to double cycle use by 2002, and double again by 2012, its commitment to "make it easier to walk and cycle" (1.35), and that Government wants "people to be able to travel safely and without fear for their personal security. Pedestrians and cyclists should not be intimidated by traffic" (1.37).

  Many forward-thinking Local Authorities are already implementing measures to provide for cyclists on the road. We look to Central Government to ensure that all local authorities are required to provide to cyclists. (3.10).

  We are pleased that cycling safety measures are considered so important, and that the need for radical measures is recognised (3.11). We see reallocation of road space and lower speed limits as key elements to achieve safer cycling (Appendix B). And safer cycling is essential for a growth in cycle use, which will then produce health benefits, in particular to reach the proposed target for reducing coronary heart disease and strokes in England, set out in "Our Healthier Nation" (2.6), and for our childrens' physical health and mental development (2.10).

  The 8,000 mile National Cycle Network will be a brilliant national asset when completed in 2005, but will not create a cycling culture without extensive local networks of safe cycling routes (3.12). Nearly 2,000 of the responses to consultation recommended making better use of road space by increasing provision for cyclists (Appendix A).

  Clearly there is a need for integration to be effective at the policy level across government and we would strongly welcome evidence that the ITP objectives are to be adopted and supported by other relevant Departments.

3. INDIVIDUAL POLICY AREAS

3.1 Making it Easier to Cycle

  Despite the National Cycling Strategy (NCS), levels of cycling continue to decline.

  There are many proposals within the White Paper which might benefit cycling, but much remains to be developed. The messages coming from Government, that more cycling is sought, that a combination of cycling promotion and real improvement in conditions can achieve dramatic increases in use within 15 years (3.38) and that concerns about safety should be an additional incentive for action (3.11) are all valuable. But there is still a high degree of scepticism among transport professionals who have little practical experience of reducing car dependence. The White Paper is very light on how NCS targets are to be achieved. Particular gaps are:

    —  what key players (including, but not limited to, highway authorities) need to do to facilitate more cycling within a relatively short time;

    —  how improvements are to be incorporated into mainstream management processes;

    —  what additional expertise and resource will be available to help communicate good practice and action research.

  To alter the current situation requires a sustained and systematic programme of improvement. A programme is likely to be most successful if cycling is not viewed in isolation. While there is a need for measures which are specific to cycling, many opportunities for improvement continue to be overlooked because investment is narrowly defined.

  We welcome the Government's commitments, set out in sections 1.35 and 1.37 and the holistic and longer term approach of local cycling strategies with the proposals for local transport plans. But local authorities need much greater incentive and support to bring conditions for cycling up to an acceptable standard, to develop effective motor traffic, car parking and speed reduction measures and to make cycling more attractive. To this end, C-PAG recommends DETR helps to establish:

    —  a national cycling database (see below);

    —  an advisory service with sufficient resource to research, develop and disseminate best practice in providing for cycling;

    —  audit checklists, standards and procedures for local authorities, transport providers and destination managers so as to ensure that cycling is incorporated into mainstream decision-making;

    —  seed-corn funding for action research;

    —  guidance on lorry route management strategies and the establishment of HGV networks;

    —  a joint programme with the Department of Health for promotion and training of cyclists, including adult returners.

3.2 Streets for People

  If a growth in cycling is to assist in addressing the current transport problems faced by the UK, then it should be primarily at the expense of current use, or future growth in use, of private motorised transport.

  We are concerned that while there are some demand management tools, such as taxation of workplace parking, in the White Paper, there is no clear national demand management framework for local authorities to work within. In particular there is no clear definition of the objectives of regional transport groups, no detailed reference to implementing the two Road Traffic Reduction Acts and no indication of the Governments intentions for public education, either through national programmes or through the funding of local activity. If the White Paper is to be successful, it is vital that these issues are addressed.

  We are particularly concerned at the lack of clear measures to reduce traffic growth in rural areas, which will contribute to the further marginalisation of those individuals and families without access to motorised transport and misses opportunities to shift patterns of tourist transport towards sustainable modes.

  In addition to traffic reduction strategies, local Authorities need guidance on setting and delivering local cycling targets. To underpin sustainable travel choices, methodologies for assessing future travel needs within new appraisal systems which cover infrastructure investment, traffic and parking management and environmental/public space security improvements, need to be developed.

3.3 Road Safety

  Fear of road danger is the greatest single barrier to an uptake of cycling, even amongst those members of the public who express a willingness to cycle. The UK currently has some of the most dangerous roads in Northern Europe for cyclists, with accident rates up to 12 times as great as comparable nations such as Denmark and Holland.

  Despite the pursuit of a national road safety strategy over the last decade, cyclists are now the most vulnerable of all road users, when measured by exposure. The current Road Safety Strategy has failed. The future Road Safety Strategy which is referenced in the White Paper, but for which no detail is given, will need to be extremely sensitive to the needs of cyclists. It is of particular concern to C-PAG that the development of this critical component of the Strategy has taken place entirely in isolation from the development of the White Paper. We are also concerned that vital elements, such as a greater commitment to the enforcement of road traffic law, are missing from the White Paper.

  The commitments to facilitate safer cycling are welcome but in order to be effective will require a new paradigm among road safety professionals and an imaginative and open-minded approach. C-PAG would seek the reassurance of Government that such will be reflected in the forthcoming Road Safety Strategy. Local authorities should be encouraged to adopt packages of targets and indicators to support the twin objectives of accident reduction and increased cycle use.

  In addition to the above, we particularly welcome the commitment to review speed limits nationally and would look for Government support for initiatives to restrict traffic speed on country lanes and introduce Home Zones.

3.4 More Integrated Public Transport

  The White Paper's focus on better interchange in every respect in pursuit of the seamless journey is welcome and long overdue. The current situation for interchange between bicycles and public transport is poor and under-exploited. The bicycle can extend the range of public transport 3-5 times beyond the distance that is readily walked. Sixty-one per cent of the population lives within a 15 minute cycle ride of a rail station. C-PAG welcomes the Government commitment in the White Paper to research how cycle access can be improved (3.62) and to help to develop acceptable methods of carrying cycles on buses and coaches and to monitor operator performance in meeting the objectives of the voluntary Code of Practice (3.63).

  It is recognised that provision for cyclists is limited even at the larger rail stations. While considerable progress in awareness-raising has been made since privatisation of the railways, largely without Government support, too many gaps in provision remain for there to have been any significant improvement in overall journey quality. Interchange between cycling and public transport is still not systematically incorporated into mainstream developments at stations. Cyclists, like wheelchair passengers and families with small children are additionally disadvantaged by poor service reliability arising from engineering works and bus substitution. Currently, restrictions on numbers of cycles which can be accommodated and frequent refusal to carry tandems discriminates against families and blind users respectively.

  Bicycle ticketing, reservations systems, information and parking are so poor as to be a major disincentive to combine cycle and train. One example, forwarded by a CTC member, was of two men with bicycles who wished to make a train journey from Newcastle to Kyle of Lochalsh, cycle to Montrose and return to Newcastle by train. This transaction required over 30 minutes on the phone and thirty-six separate pieces of paper to achieve.

  There are too many conflicting priorities and too much ground to be made up to leave development to voluntary initiative and resource. The situation was forecast by RCEP and is confirmed by subsequent experience.

  C-PAG recommends DETR ensure that:

    —  public transport interchanges, especially the railways, are brought within the revised PPG 13;

    —  national passenger travel information and booking systems contain full details of the availability of cycle carriage;

    —  strategic Rail Authority has express powers and duties to ensure the development of all aspects of cycle/rail interchange;

    —  obligations on public transport operators to develop, within prescribed timescales, provision for bicycles to be used at the beginning and the end of public transport services, whether rail, ferry, coach, air or light rail;

    —  obligations on public transport operators to disclose information about current travel patterns and modal share to local, regional and national planning and highway authorities;

    —  highway authorities work in partnership with rail operators to ensure that the cycle/rail combination is exploited to the full.

  Underpinning all this change, it will be necessary to genuinely address the cost of public transport use, relative to car use. We would welcome a clear indication of the Government's intentions in this area.

4. FUNDING AND STRUCTURES

  Not all transport and highway authorities have direct experience of altering current trends and travel patterns and of developing sustainable systems to meet future transport needs. Current trends indicate that much more incentive and support are needed to bring conditions for cycling up to an acceptable standard; to provide travel and service information to attract increased use and to create a positive cycling culture in line with its potential in the UK.

  It is clear from the Continental experience that investment in cycling is extremely cost effective and can produce dramatic results. Nevertheless, in the UK, cycling has suffered from a lack of investment, uncertainty over funding, and unrealistic expectations of individual measures. The sudden suspension of the Minor Works budget in 1996 sent a strong negative message to local authorities about the real value of cycling.

  C-PAG has identified a number of gaps in the existing structures and proposals. These include the need for:

    —  investment appraisal criteria that reflects the potential and value of cycling, and not simply current levels of use;

    —  investigation of the potential of investment in the canal towpath network to create new routes for cyclists;

    —  effective methodologies for local authorities to appraise future travel need and the potential for modal shift;

    —  guidance on setting and delivering local cycling targets within the context of air quality and traffic reduction strategies;

    —  piloting of new procedures such as "cycle audit" and "review" by a number of different local authorities to enable mechanisms to be refined in the light of practical experience;

    —  a national data base of sustainable transport choices, including cycle route networks, 20 mph zones, complementary facilities and services (including for public transport interchange); current and potential markets; bicycle travel information; promotion campaigns (including National Bike Week, safe routes to schools, travel wise and green commuter plans); and accessible and low emission public transport services;

    —  an advisory service to research, develop and disseminate best practice in the development of cycling to local authorities, transport providers, destination managers, business and local communities;

    —  audit checklists, standards and procedures for incorporating cycling into mainstream decision-making, so as to realise the benefits and potential for:

  (i)  improved access—to work, open spaces, goods services, education, etc.—for those without independent access to a car;

  (ii)  better health;

  (iii)  attracting a modal shift from the car.

    —  methodologies for monitoring including short and medium and longer-term indicators of progress and consumer satisfaction;

    —  seed corn funding for pilot and demonstration projects which show what a package measures can achieve in reducing the barriers to an increase in cycling—perhaps along side motor traffic reduction; improved safety and security; public transport; disabled access or environmental and pedestrian improvements, etc. (similar to rail passenger partnership, rural transport fund, etc., to help overcome lack of experience);

    —  an "options hierarchy" within guidance for local transport plans.

CONCLUSIONS

  We welcome the vision for transport described in the White Paper. The sincerity of that vision will be determined by the effectiveness of the action inspired by the White Paper and the lead government can give in changing the way we think about transport. The policy set out by the Government is laudable, however it will require support from revised structures, sustained and adequate funding and the development of a new set of competencies at national, regional and local levels in order to be effective.


 
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