Cycling Safety - Transport Committee Contents

5  The role of Government

51. This inquiry received many suggestions and proposals for how to make cycling safer on our roads. Where there was disagreement on the precise measures that should be taken—particularly reflecting local circumstance, and the difference between rural and urban roads—the overwhelming message from witnesses was that political leadership, as we recommended in 2012, was critical to achieving the Prime Minister's stated ambition of increasing cycling rates.[134] The London Cycling Campaign argued that "political will" would be the "single most important fundamental and overarching factor that will deliver improved conditions for cycling in the UK, and unlock the huge latent demand there is for cycling as an everyday means of transport".[135] The CTC called for the support of all government departments for "a vision to make cycling a normal mode of transport that anybody of any age and ability can do for any journey, safely, comfortably and enjoyably".[136] This would ensure what was described by Martin Porter QC as a "cultural shift" in Government, from the tradition of putting the interests of motorists first".[137] British Cycling argued that:

    All nations and cities that have achieved the greatest success in developing cycling have a common thread binding them. They have all had politicians at the highest levels make an explicit and genuine commitment to make cycling a serious form of transport.[138]

52. We considered whether a specific role should be assigned this leadership responsibility: a cycling tsar or champion. The charity Living Streets called for "ministerial" leadership.[139] Others called for local champions.[140] The role of the Mayor of London's commissioner for cycling was highlighted with Mr Gilligan viewed as having a mandate and authority, direct from the Mayor.[141] This was seen as crucial: Chris Boardman argued that a cycling champion or tsar would only work if it carried the mandate of a senior elected politician, and if the post-holder had influence or control over a significant budget.[142] The post would also need the authority to work across government departments, as policies affecting cycling range across departmental boundaries.[143] Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director at CTC, told us that such a role would only be useful if it had the authority from the Prime Minister to coordinate work from across departments:

    If there is to be a cycling tsar, his authority would need to come from the Prime Minister, so that he has prime ministerial backing to go into all the other Government Departments that need to contribute to a cycling revolution, to make sure that not only the Department for Transport is playing its role, but that the Departments for education, planning, businesses, employers, rural access, culture, media and sport, traffic law enforcement, the justice system and, ultimately, the Treasury are all playing their roles; and so too are public transport operators, the police, the criminal justice system and so on.[144]

Mr Geffen added that "without that authority, the role would be a poisoned chalice".[145]

53. The Minister told us that the country had many cycling champions, and as the minister responsible, he would be one of the champions; adding that he viewed himself as responsible for ensuring that the interests of cyclists are represented, that cycling is made safer, and that capital projects take account of cyclists where possible.[146] He cautioned against the appointing of tsars without a clear purpose and cautioned that:

    In the past politicians have often said, "Here is a problem. What shall we do about it? Let's appoint a tsar or a champion." […] I am just cautious that we do not just think, "This is a quick fix. We will appoint a champion," but then we do not give that person the resources or the role to do what they want to do. […] I hope that we will not have a situation where we appoint a champion and say, "That is dealt with and we can move on to other things."[147]

54. As the Prime Minister has set out his ambition for a cycling revolution it must be for the Government to champion cycling and not outsource it to a powerless, and inevitably short-term, tsar or champion. It is right for a minister in the Department for Transport to take on this role, and be accountable to Parliament for his performance. We welcome the Minister's willingness to take on this role.

55. To achieve the Prime Minister's ambition of a cycling revolution, it is necessary but not sufficient for cycling to be championed by the Department for Transport. Government must work across its self-imposed departmental boundaries to fund and facilitate a culture change supporting cycling. We ask the Minister to set out in his response to this Report the specific steps he will take to coordinate cycling policy across the departments for Transport, Communities and Local Government, Health, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


56. Witnesses highlighted the short-term and fragmented nature of the funding for cycling: Sustrans described investment in cycling as "sporadic, rather than long term consistent funding".[148] Chris Boardman argued that, while cycling had received a "significant amount of money" in the last two years, that funding had always been "very short term and as one-offs".[149] British Cycling told us that current funding levels were only committed for a two-year period.[150] The Local Government Association noted the uncertain future of the funding for a number of cycling initiatives which had been funded by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, due to be subsumed into the Local Growth Fund from 2015.[151] In a further example Sustrans highlighted the £20 million Cycle Safety Fund, announced in April 2013, which "went ahead with limited time for applications and assessment and did not form part of a wider programme of longer term funding".[152] Mr Boardman argued that to achieve the targets of increasing cycling as a proportion of travel, the funding would have to be committed for the long-term. [153]

57. The Minister emphasised that the Government was spending twice as much on cycling as its predecessor administration.[154] The detail he provided on this funding demonstrated the fragmented nature of the funding, however, with references to four separate sources of funding for cycle infrastructure:
Funding scheme Money allocated
"Cycling ambition grants for cities and national parks" £94 million
Cycling infrastructure at rail stations and in communities £30 million
Improving safety at junctions £35 million
Local sustainable transport fund £600 million in total; although only part of this funding will be on cycling projects.[155]

58. The split of funding between various initiatives can make it difficult to clarify total funding levels for cycling. Witnesses identified this total as approximately £2 per head of population, and compared this to the equivalent of over £24 per head in the Netherlands.[156] British Cycling compared the funding levels against the £27 billion spending allocated to roads until 2021—equivalent to £75 per head of population per year.[157] In its Get Britain Cycling report the APPG for Cycling called for a cycling budget of at least £10 per person per year, rising to £20 per person.[158] This was backed by many of our witnesses, including the national charity for cycling, CTC, and Mr Boardman.[159] Some members of the public called for the budget to be increased even further, with suggestions of £40 per person per year, for at least the next decade.[160] The Mayor of London has committed to spending £145 million on cycling next year: approximately £18 per resident of the capital.[161] The results of the Cycling Demonstration Towns—six towns which received sustained funding of £10 per head on cycling between 2005 and 2008, and recorded an average increase in cycling of 27%—suggested that a concentrated focus on removing barriers to cycling, accompanied by sustained investment, can result in a significant increase in the number of cyclists.[162]

59. Cycling funding should, we heard, come from a range of different departments, rather than just the Department for Transport. Roger Geffen of CTC argued that the Department of Health, Department for Education and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills could play "a significant role" in cycling funding with just a "relatively small" part of their overall revenue spending.[163] There was a particular role for the Department of Health, given the health benefits of cycling, and subsequent cost savings to the NHS.[164]

60. The cycling budget is currently fragmented between different initiatives with no consistency or clarity over funding sources. There is no confirmed figure for the annual spending per capita, but witnesses estimated it was just £2 per head, and compared this figure to the higher levels of funding in other European countries.

61. We recommend that the Government publishes each year the total budget for cycling to enable strategic and long-term planning of cycle infrastructure, training and promotion.

62. We have set out the improvements required to cycling infrastructure and training, and view these measures as essential to keep cyclists safe on the roads. To achieve these safety benefits, we need to see a steady and planned increase in per-capita spend on cycling. We call on the Government to set out an ambition to reach £10 per head by 2020, with a timetable of how this will be achieved.

134   British Cycling (CYS 143) para 31, Leeds Cycling Campaign (CYS 132) para 4, Chartered Institution Of Highways And Transportation (CYS 57) para 2.2, Living Streets (CYS0037) para 9, Mr Chris Terrell (CYS0032) para 9.1,  Back

135   London Cycling Campaign (CYS 71) para 2.1  Back

136   Q 116 Back

137   Martin Porter QC (CYS 98) para 7 Back

138   British Cycling (CYS 143) para 31 Back

139   Living Streets (CYS 37) para 9 Back

140   Transition Town Totnes Cycling Group (CYS 136)para 2 Back

141   Q 126 Back

142   Q 125 Back

143   Q 126 Back

144   Q 126 Back

145   Q 126 Back

146   Q 106 Back

147   Q 106 Back

148   Sustrans (CYS 058) para 4 Back

149   Q 114 Back

150   British Cycling (CYS 143) para 24 Back

151   Local Government Association (CYS 25Back

152   Sustrans (CYS 058) para 4 Back

153   Q 114 Back

154   Q 83 Back

155   Q 83 Back

156   British Cycling (CYS 143) para 24 Back

157   British Cycling (CYS 143) para 24 Back

158   All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Get Britain Cycling, April 2013, p 7 Back

159   CTC (CYS 53) para 17, Q 131 Back

160   Anthony Cartmell (CYS 42) para 2.1.4 Back

161   Greater London Authority, The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London, March 2013, p 5 Back

162   Richard Armitage, David Hurdle, Adrian Lord and Alex Sully (CYS 128) para 16 Back

163   Q 139 Back

164   Dr Carl Egdell (CYS 16), Transition Town Totnes Cycling Group (CYS 136) para 1 (i), London Cycling Campaign (CYS 71) para 1.4, Local Government Association (CYS 25) Back

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Prepared 18 July 2014