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Why isn’t Transport for London spending more on cycling? asks Green Party's Darren Johnson

Green Party Assembly Member runs the rule over TfL's figures and says something doesn't add up

A combination of pressure by cyclists and London Assembly members successfully achieved an increase of £52m in the cycling budget during the next three years. On the 18th of February the Mayor confirmed that the budget for the three years was £334m, after two weeks of pressure in support of an Assembly motion proposed by Jenny Jones AM, that total had increased to £386m. We didn’t get the 2% of the TfL budget that a cross party Assembly report said that cycling deserved, but it was still a big success.

The reason given by the Mayor’s office for not spending more was that projects simply can’t be made ready in time. There is a track record of delays and dithering which support this argument. For example, nearly a fifth of this year’s cycling budget, is simply money & projects carried over from last year. This underspend carry over is a regular feature of the Mayor’s claim to be spending record amounts on cycling. Since 2008/09, Mayoral press releases & statements have claimed to be spending a total of £112m more than was actually delivered.

These figures include boroughs spending except for 2010/11

Year      Total claimed     Actual spent     Carried over
               £m                £m               £m

2008/09        55                44.8              10
2009/10       111                57                54 
2010/11       116 + boroughs    100 + boroughs     16
2011/12        94                82                12
2012/13       101                81                20 (est)

Borough spending (included in the above)

2005/6 2006/7 2007/8 2008/9 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
  £m     £m     £m     £m     £m       £m     £m      £m

  15     19     21     24     17        -     11      28

Having looked at the Mayor’s new ‘vision for cycling’ and the projects which they are promising to deliver, my concern is that TfL have under-estimated the budget for the 10 year plan on the expectation that much of it won’t happen. The Mayor’s new cycling adviser, Andrew Gilligan, may or may not ‘get it’, but by his own admission, he doesn’t control the purse strings. I realise that some cyclists might regard a £913m budget as substantial, but it really isn’t when you look at how thinly it is going to be spread.

The cycling superhighways are by far the biggest cost identified so far. TfL have delivered four out of the 12 routes which the Mayor promised to complete by 2016. The quality is due to improve as Go Dutch standards start to influence design and the cost of the CS5 has escalated according.

TfL are reportedly spending £15m on one superhighway (Victoria to New Cross), after spending around £10m on the initial ones. TfL note that “the remaining routes will differ significantly from the first four, with consequent implications for the business case…” The CS5 plans for a route through New Cross were cut short, just at the point when it gets most dangerous and congested, so further costs may be added if the local authority can agree plans for a quieter & safer back route. If we add in the cost of the remaining seven routes at an average cost of around £15m, then that accounts for a third of the £386m budget. You see the problem?

The junction review is £100m, although some of this may duplicate what needs to be done on the superhighways routes. Given the urgency of the concerns over safety, I would hope that the money is spent by 2016. That brings us to a total of £220m.

Next we have the cycling Crossrail route which Gilligan told the Sunday Politics show would be in ‘the high end of the tens of millions’. The whole scheme is very sketchy and no dates are given for start or completion, but let’s assume that the scheme is well on its way by 2016 and that £50m has been spent.

The good news is that TfL hopes that cycle hire will only cost about £35m during the next three years. It is more than the Mayor’s promise of a scheme at zero cost to the taxpayer and we still don’t know how the membership figures will respond to the price hike, but it doesn’t put a big dent in the total budget.

The regular bits and pieces for cycle training, parking, greenways and promotion have remained more or less the same since 2008 and nothing in the cycling vision indicates that this will significantly change. Together they total around £30m by 2016.

That leaves the big unknowns of cycling in outer London and quiet ways. Neither of these get off the ground until next year. The Quiet Ways budget may not be that big, especially if local authorities adopt the lower cost approaches used in the Netherlands and Denmark.  So much depends on the political will shown by the local authorities in dealing with obstacles such as car parking and bans on cycling in parks. However, its worth noting that TfL said recently that they expected that a third of their total budget to be spent by local authorities.

Outer London is promised £100m over the next 10 years, but only 1-3 boroughs are to be given money as ‘mini-Holland’ pilots. This is remarkably vague and seems like a TfL re-run of the smarter travel pilot schemes in outer London. The first two produced some remarkable traffic reduction impacts, as people where talked out of their cars. Ken Livingstone had promised to roll them out around the rest of outer London, if the pilots where successful and when Boris Johnson was elected he praised the project, before cancelling it. A future Mayor may well do the same with these cycling pilots.

The grand total for committed expenditure is something in the region of £335m, plus quiet ways, and the mini-Hollands. Given that local authorities are meant to take a third of the cycling budget (around a £120m before 2016), those should be substantial additions. Unless of course TfL have no intention of delivering everything that is in the Mayor’s cycling vision.

My own next step will be to ask the Assembly to give its support to the large number of outer London local authorities who want to become mini Hollands. Given the experience of Hackney and other London boroughs in delivering real change, there is no need for ‘pilots’. We also have plenty of expertise to draw upon from other UK urban centres which took part in Cycle England’s demonstration towns project a few years ago. No more pilots. The Mayor should fund all the local authorities who have enthusiasm and a viable plan.

We know what to do. Let’s get on and do it.

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joebee9870 | 11 years ago

The money gets spent on talking about making improvements rather than spending it on improvements. Too many spoons in the pot.

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