Our response to DfT’s CWIS

Dear Mr McLoughlin MP
Dear Mr Goodwill MP

This is a response from newcycling.org to the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) and is addressed to you as the signatories of the document. Newcycling.org is a constituted organisation entirely run by volunteers. We formed in 2010 to address economic, social and spatial inequalities in the transport system and to lobby for decent cycling infrastructure for Newcastle council and linking into the surrounding transport authorities. Our organisation has over 1,600 local members. We submit this response on behalf of our membership.

Key points

  • Totally unacceptable strategy:
    • NO steady budget stream
    • NO commitment to urban re-design and the crucial factor: building cycleways
    • NO national standards

We are deeply disappointed indeed with the contents and details of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS). After careful reading of the CWIS we hold serious doubt that the ministers of the Department for Transport (DfT) are competent to do their job adequately on this important matter. We were under the impression that you wanted to unlock cycling and walking as mass modes of transport. The strategy however does not address in the slightest the real barriers that exist.

Whilst we see some good aspects and items of potential in the CWIS (expert panel, DfT guidance on development of plans, DfT enabling expertise sharing with LEPs), these can barely hide the total inadequacies of the strategy on the whole, which we highlight in the following.

1. Budget

It does not make any sense whatsoever to have an investment strategy without an investment included in it. It is a clear sign of internal departmental wrangles. You, the ministers, speak warm words but do not want to commit to the cycling revolution, as it was called for by their Prime Minister not so long ago. It is hard to comprehend you would be reluctant to do so given the returns that a cycling nation would bring to the nation’s public health, local economies and the environment. The DfT must do some deep soul-searching and explain their unwillingness to set aside a sizable budget for this strategy.

As for cold hard numbers, the Dutch spend about £25 pppa on cycle infrastructure alone (see for example – Pucher & Buehler, 2012 “City Cycling”). This would be a £1.5bn annual budget in England. We believe this is the very minimum sum that must be set aside from DfT’s “road budget”. Especially, as road projects rarely ever have lived up to their original promises and appraisals. Building more roads and widening existing ones simply means building more motor jams.

It’s a dead-end we can no longer afford and that you have manoeuvred the country in. And it is you who has the power and responsibility to get us out.

2. Building Cycleways

Research is clear. People do not like to cycle in motor traffic and people like cycleways and protected space for cycling. When cycleways are built of good enough quality, people will use them and cycling levels will increase. Otherwise, as abundantly documented by the last 20 years, cycling levels will remain embarrassingly low. A cycling revolution requires a step change towards steady and significant investment towards quality cycling infrastructure. The budget is substantially for the construction of cycleways which need to be protected from motor traffic on the main roads, providing direct and stress-free conditions.

Without a safe, comfortable, and convenient cycling experience most will not cycle. Put children or older people in the mix, and it’s clear that we must create cycling infrastructure for all ages and all abilities (see – Pucher & Buehler, 2012, as above; Pooley et al, 2013 “Promoting walking and cycling”).

3. Standards

It is unbelievable you also loosen your leadership at a time it’s gravely needed. Pushing responsibility onto local authorities is bad enough, but thinking you, as the responsible national body, could simply shrug off national steer at the expense of nation-wide consistency, adds insult to injury for local transport authorities. National design standards for cycle infrastructure must be created for aiding the local transport tier, so that cycling infrastructure is consistent and legible on a national level.

In summary

The CWIS is empty. It is not only a shameful but also a very feeble attempt by you to make it appear useful, when it’s the opposite: it’s just spin. For you to be taken seriously by your contemporaries and future generations we suggest you have a long hard look at the document you signed. Perhaps on second reading you can see how dreadfully hollow it is. England needs and deserves a steady budget stream to build protected cycleways and national cycle infrastructure standards for its consistent implementation.

Until these things are in place, we can only ask you to step aside and vacate your positions for smarter, more modern colleagues who are up to date with building inclusive and competitive urban transport systems.

Please acknowledge receipt of our consultation response.

Best wishes
Katja Leyendecker
On behalf of newcycling.org Management Committee