08. 02. 2008

Cyclical success

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I vaguely remember being very rude about the Department for Transport at some stage last year, regarding their continuing failure to get really serious about walking and cycling. That was in the context of the Cycling England report showing that a £50 million investment in cycling could result in cumulative health, pollution and congestion savings of more than £1 billion.

In fairness, I must now report back with the very good news that the Department for Transport has just announced a huge increase in available funding, from £30 million to £140 million over three years. The priority will be on cycle training for kids, connecting up a lot more schools to the National Cycle Network, reinforcing the work going on in six towns currently piloting cycling initiatives (with some considerable success), and adding another ten towns to those.

Brilliant stuff!

And what’s equally encouraging is that part of the funding is coming from the Department of Health as part and parcel of its obesity strategy. For all those who have been arguing for decades that one of the corner stones of any sustainable transport policy should be the contribution it makes to good health, thriving communities and increased quality of life, this has to be seen as a bit of a breakthrough for the UK.

And maybe one of those 16 towns and cities will go the whole hog and set out to emulate the amazing Velib scheme that was introduced in Paris in July last year, and is already beginning to have a real impact. It’s dead simple: 20,000 bikes, positioned all around the city at 1400 locations (a lot of them close to the 368 metro stations), very simple and relatively cheap hire arrangements, and computer-controlled locking devices on every stand.

Despite huge initial scepticism from cynical Parisiens (though not quite as hostile a reaction as there was to Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge!), they’re now beginning to take it to their hearts. Indeed, two of my most hard-bitten SD colleagues have recently returned from Paris, glowing with enthusiasm for Eurostar and Velib.

As Sustrans has demonstrated (in winning the Big Lottery’s mega-prize before Christmas) success breeds success – and the Department for Transport funding could make a huge difference in that regard.

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16. 03. 2008

As a total cyclist who appalls extravagance and wastefulness, I am rather alarmed at your simplistic congratulation of money thrown at schemes and programmes. Enthuse, enthuse, enthuse, but until I see you stopping traffic in a £30 second-hand bike, at a Critical Mass, or doing your weekly shopping with a bike trailer, I'm not impressed with your achievements.

Besides which, why are you, along with all your kind, forgetting the greatest importance of saving our planetary heritage of living species in their natural habitats? Surely you have the intelligence and spiritual depth to not have given up on them and thinking that it is okay for a mass extinction event even if global warming were stopped dead in its tracks tonight?

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