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George Osborne "isn't listening to evidence" on cycling investment

CTC calls roads investment rationale "questionable" and urges people to ask MPs to attend debate to try to reallocate existing roads fund to cycling...

Chancellor George Osborne “isn’t listening to the evidence” on transport investment, the CTC’s Roger Geffen, MBE, tells, ahead of a Parliamentary debate in which MPs will try to persuade Transport ministers to reallocate some of a £15bn roads fund to cycling.

Following talks between campaigners and the Treasury that the CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Geffen says “haven’t got very far”, on 3 February MPs will instead try to persuade ministers from the Department for Transport to use the roads fund to increase a “derisory” £300m allocated to cycling and walking, that amounts to just £1.39 per person per year in England.

CTC, the national cycling charity, is urging people to ask their MPs to attend. The motion, to debate Government investment for cycling for England, was tabled by Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton. It follows the Autumn statement, where £300m was set aside for cycling and walking over the next five years.

What does the Comprehensive Spending Review say about cycling?

Ahead of next week's debate Geffen, who called the evidence behind new roads investment “questionable”, said: “There is a complete mismatch between the Government’s stated aims for a cycling revolution and where the money’s going. We have £15bn for roads versus £300m over the same five year period for cycling and walking combined, which amounts to £1.39 per person per year for the population of England outside of London.”

He said while that figure doesn't include local funding, “we are still a very long way from getting at the £10, let alone the £20, per head per year investment that we are calling for.” It also excludes London where a larger proportion of devolved transport budgets are allocated to cycling.

George Osborne “isn’t listening to the evidence”, Geffen says, because it doesn’t fit with an economic model that focuses on the private motor car, he adds “despite the fact that transport planners have been saying for decades that that is highly questionable”.

“Meanwhile £15 billion is being spent on increasing motor traffic and speeds [on main roads] but very little on local journeys which are most people’s everyday experience.

“It’s not as if the great British public is gagging for more roads. If you said more roads equals more traffic, that’s not what people want. What people want is better maintained local roads, not more long distance roads, so George Osborne is putting the money in the wrong place.”

New £580m ‘Access’ fund means annual cycle funding remains well short of £10 per head target

He adds: “We have tried with the Treasury, and we haven’t got very far. We have now got to focus on transport ministers, say ‘Look, you have £15bn. You can spend it wisely or you can spend it poorly’.”

Geffen said evidence shows that for towns and cities to be drivers for the economy they need to be attractive for people and businesses, whereas building more roads will simply encourage more cars into urban centres, making them less attractive places to be. 

He said: “You need to encourage walking and cycling, thinking about places rather than roads all the time.

 “Can we put more money where we need it where our health, our economy needs it? Can we transform them so that they become places for people, rather than cars?”

To get in touch with your MP and persuade them to join Wednesday's debate, click here

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severs1966 | 8 years ago

Osborne, as with every MP, is interested in what will keep him in power. Prt of the lobby that put him where he is requires him to make lots of money for his mates, so that's the lesser item that might interest him.

I doubt that the question of whether bike riders can use a road without dying is even in his top 100 of concerns.

Chris James | 8 years ago

There isn't much that the local council can do though. I was at a meeting last month when I was told by two senior councillors that our entire local council budget will only match what is projected to be spent on adult social care by 2020.

With the announced cuts to central governemnt funding then any service that is not legally mandated simply won't happen. The council have already sold most of its assets and is going for the full 3.95% council tax increase for this year (but the supposedly extra 2% for social care premium allowed won't even cover the increased wage costs of moving to the 'living wage').

There is next to no chance of getting potholes repaired, let alone any improvements to the local transport infrastructure.

Dnnnnnn | 8 years ago

Y’all might be better directing your letter writing efforts to your local authorities. They manage 98% of the network, and funding for it isn’t “ring-fenced” by central Government.

It’s true that the overall support for local authorities from central government has been, and will continue to be, severely pruned by central Government – but even if Osborne gave them more there’s little evidence they’d spend it on cycling.

A clear national strategy might put a little pressure on local authorities, that's true - but a compelling local case and local voter might do more.

burtthebike | 8 years ago

Just like every other promise made by this government, the cycling revolution has evaporated.  The economic and social case for cycling is overwhelming, undeniable and the Prime Minister no less, has promised the cycling revolution, so the question has to be why won't they fund it?  They are more than happy to fund road building, for which there is no economic or social case, and HS2, which similarly has no justification.

The answer is that they drive cars, their family drive cars and their friends drive cars, and lots more of their friends own road building and construction companies.  This government has realised that it has five years to screw us over before they get consigned to the dustbin of history, and they are going to make as much as they can as quickly as they can.

I'll be writing to my MP, a tory party line faithful, but since he has proved much less useful than a chocolate ironing board in the past, I won't be holding out much hope.

JoshOwenMorris | 8 years ago

I'm not sure you could ever accuse George Osborne of listening to evidence on anything.

kraut replied to JoshOwenMorris | 8 years ago

JoshOwenMorris wrote:

I'm not sure you could ever accuse George Osborne of listening to evidence on anything.


That, sadly, seems to be a feature common to UK governments of all colours. Remember Prof David Nutt?

davel | 8 years ago

You're a tough bunch to please, you really are.

This government has mentioned that they're well behind a cycling revolution at least a few times - what more do you want? Actual investment?

Similarly they keep talking about making difficult decisions - yet you seem to want them to actually make a difficult decision. Deary me.

Kapelmuur | 8 years ago

3 times during the past year I've written to my (Tory) MP asking for support for cycling projects, I've yet to have the courtesy of a reply.

HarrogateSpa | 8 years ago

There are two problems with Osborne. (In fact, there are many more, but let's concentrate on two).

He seems to be someone who spends all his time indoors. He's either in an office, or in a limo, or watching DVDs on the train having blagged his way into 1st Class. He doesn't go outside, except if it's for a photo op with him wearing a fluorescent gilet, safety goggles, and a white hard hat, so of course he doesn't like riding bikes. That makes it difficult to persuade him to fund cycling. That's the first problem.

The second problem is that, despite having been elected on a 'long-term economic plan' slogan, repeated so often that it made me want to cut my ears off, like Van Gogh, he is incapable of assessing evidence and planning long-term. He's all about gaining a political advantage today, or next Tuesday at the latest, through some Macchiavellian scheme.

Cycling infrastructure needs to be planned and invested in by someone with integrity and vision. That's never going to be Osborne. So the best chance is to put pressure on DfT ministers. One of them is my constituency MP, and I'll be writing to him.

Condor flyer | 8 years ago

I am sure the debate will present an excellent case for putting good money into cycling, but it will fail to move Osborne, just as similar calls have failed to move any Labour chancellor before him.

Because they just don't understand that cycling, or walking for that matter, needs any consideration.

The best thing we can hope for is for an alien invasion from the Planet Pedal....The Netherlands... who are wired differently.


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