Friday, 19 October 2018

Here we go again

HERE we go again, as if in a recurring nightmare.  The government has published plans to build a national cycle route which, like all grand cycling schemes put before them,  they have no intention of funding.

This grand cycle way is to run beside the High Speed Railway (HS2) up the spine of England, as reported by Helen Pidd in The Guardian (Friday, October 19).

And it’s all hot air.  Because apparently – and never mind the  lack of money for the moment - the builders of the railway have even failed to make safe provision for cyclists crossing the route, never mind the new bridges and tunnels supposed to leave room to take the route itself beside the 250-mph trains!

Exciting that, cycling alongside 250mph trains.  Well, it would be…

As ever, Roger Geffen, of Cycling UK, their ever optimistic policy director, thinks it is not too late for HS2 to follow the design for the cycle route.  

Olympic  gold medallist Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, is disappointed, just as he was at the failure of government to fund the Get Britain Cycling Report a year or two ago.  HS2 is the latest in a long line of cycling initiatives to get the thumbs down when it comes to paying for them.
The government is prepared to sink £billions into the controversial railway linking London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, but they have no intention of funding the cycle route.

As usual, it will be left to Local Authorities to find money they haven’t got - because government has cut their funding.

So the seven million people estimated to be living within a 10-minute bike ride of the “proposed” cycle route should be prepared to be disappointed. 

The most frustrated man of all is surely John Grimshaw, the engineer who helped write the study into HS2 national cycleway.  For Grimshaw is the daddy of them all when it comes to planning cycleways in the UK. He gave us the Sustrans National Cycle Route completed in 2005, comprising 14,000 miles of traffic-free and mostly lightly trafficked roads throughout the UK.

It is the jewel in the cycling crown, albeit the only one, and was Lottery funded to the tune of £42.5m through the Millennium Commission.

Back in 1996, cycling’s friend Steven Norris, then Minister for Local Transport and Road Safety at the Department of Transport, launched an excellent “Cycle-friendly Infrastructure Guidelines for planning and Design”.

But there was never any serious money made available to enable local authorities to implement it, even if their own highway engineers were of a mind to and they never were anyway.

1996 saw a double whammy, for also in that year, the Conservatives gave us the National Cycling Strategy - with no money.

Labour gave it a few peanuts a decade later and Cycling England was formed to spend it – with the likes of Grimshaw and transport and cycling expert Christian Wolmar on the board. They did an excellent job, helping to promote the creation of over 20 cycling demonstration towns all featuring small but successful cycling schemes.

It was too good to last and Cycling England was closed down by Chancellor Phillip Hammond.

Then a couple of years ago the government announced the Get Britain Cycling report to great fanfare.  But hopes were dashed when they refused to give it cabinet backing, once again leaving it to cash-strapped Local Authorities who have done nothing worth speaking of.

Where are they now, these reports?

My bet is they were all confiscated by the Roads Lobby – who see any grand cycling development as a threat to King Car – and all of these cycling reports are gathering dust in the Warehouse of Lost Dreams.

No comments:

Post a Comment