Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

“Why bother about evidence?” Cycling UK responds to Tory MPs’ call to end emergency active travel funding

“So-called War on the Motorist is a myth,” says national cycling charity as it urges opponents of active travel measures to heed experts

“Why bother about evidence?” That’s the question posed by Cycling UK in response to a letter from 14 Conservative MPs, including former minister for cycling Robert Goodwill, as they appealed to transport secretary Grant Shapps to withdraw emergency active travel funding for initiatives such as pop-up bike lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods.

The letter, which we reported on earlier today – our previous story appears in full below – was also supported by anti-cycling lobby groups Fair Fuel UK, the Association of British Drivers and the Motorcycle Action Group, as well as the Road Haulage Association.

With the Department for Transport last month responding to a petition that also called for the end of funding for such schemes by reiterating the government’s commitment to active travel and highlighting that the majority of people support them, there is little chance of the backbench MPs forcing a change in policy.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, told road.cc: “The so-called War on the Motorist these MPs are shouting about is a myth promoted by organisations spouting fiction rather than fact, determined to turn a blind eye to the telescope whenever evidence is presented to them.

“If they listened to the experts, which is perhaps a big ask for some of them, they’d discover that investing in cycling and walking initiatives is incredibly cost effective; moves more people in less space, reducing rather than causing congestion; and boosts the local economy. Or perhaps they do know this, but the facts just don’t suit their narrative.

“They claim this policy is indefensible, but whilst the policy may not have been perfectly implemented, what’s indefensible is the short-sighted do nothing attitude these MPs are displaying to measures designed to enable more people to move around our towns and cities more efficiently, in a healthier socially distanced manner, whilst reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.

“But why bother about evidence, the environment and longer term solutions to endemic problems when you can blame everything on a cycle lane?”

Cycling UK also highlighted expert opinions it sourced recently, which warned that British cities risk being overrun with motor traffic unless the government intervenes through taking measures such as making it easier and safer for people to travel on foot or by bike.

Our original article, published at 1415 hours today, appears below.

Former minister for cycling Robert Goodwill is among 14 backbench Conservative MPs who have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to withdraw support for emergency cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods, claiming that the policy is “indefensible.”

The letter, dated 5 November and headed “The Uncalled-for War on the Motorist,” comes from the All Party Parliamentary Group Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and Hauliers, comes ahead of the expected announcement this week of the second tranche of funding for emergency active travel infrastructure.

It claims that “millions of constituents across the country are feeling victimised by draconian charges and road restrictions initiated by local authorities and funded it seems, by the Department of Transport,” adding that “the anger out there is palpable.”

The MPs call for a halt to the roll out and the withdrawal of “the plethora of new road narrowing, blockades and dedicated cycle lanes eating into our town and city roads,” describing the funding being spent on such initiatives as “simply a high-priced idealistic formula for even more congestion and the associated increased pollution that comes from resultant slower moving or stationery vehicles.”

They also call on plans for the London Congestion Charging Zone to be expanded to the entire area within the North and South Circular roads to be abandoned, and for the public to be consulted on schemes affecting the roads.

The letter is also endorsed by the lobby groups Fair Fuel UK, the Association of British Drivers and the Motorcycle Action Group, as well as the Road Haulage Association, each of which regularly oppose measures designed to promote active travel and curb motor traffic and associated air pollution.

There is little prospect of the core demand of the government pulling support for emergency cycle lanes and LTNs being met.

Less than a fortnight ago, in response to a petition posted on the UK Parliament website that called for a halt to funding for such schemes, the government reiterated its support for them, with the Department for Transport emphasising that “We know the majority of people support giving more road space to cycling and walking in their local area.”

> Government backs Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and cycleways in reply to petition calling for withdrawal of funding

The Department for Transport said: “Local authorities have a duty to manage their roads for the benefit of all traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians. The more people that cycle and walk, the more road space is freed up for those who really need to drive. Encouraging more cycling and walking is a key part of the Government’s efforts to reduce harmful emissions from transport, as well as to help make people healthier.”

It underlined that LTNs “deliver a wide range of benefits – a safer and more pleasant environment for residents, more walking and cycling and better air quality,” and that school streets “can reduce the number of people driving their children to school by up to a third.

“There are often concerns that reallocating road space will have a negative impact on business,” the DfT’s continued.

“However, evidence shows that people who walk and cycle take more trips to the high street over the course of a month than people who drive.

“Making access to high streets easier by walking and cycling has a proven economic benefit. Well planned improvements in the walking environment can deliver up to a 40 per cent increase in shopping footfall and high street walking, cycling and public realm improvements can increase retail sales by up to 30 per cent.

“Evidence also shows that investment in cycling and walking is supported by the majority of people in local communities.

“Although some schemes have attracted negative attention, this is still only a small minority of the people living in those areas.”

It added: “Different types of intervention will be appropriate in different places. For example, what works in urban areas may not be suitable in rural areas or smaller towns, where people are more reliant on private vehicles.

“Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with the needs of other road users, including motorists and local businesses.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment

30 comments

Avatar
Brightspark | 3 years ago
6 likes

I am drafting a letter to my local MP, Jonathon Lord. He voted leave when his constiuents voting remain, so he is really in touch. I too am puzzled as to why he signed this as I am not aware of any LTN's* or dedicated cycle lanes...sorry well designed dedicated cycle lanes** in Woking.

I note that the letter points out that only 4% of journeys are done by bike. I have worked out that the 37million angry drivers, palpable with rage are only 5½% of the population of the UK. I will mention that fact a number of times.

I shall review letter and send off when the red mist has gone and I can make sure that it is coherent.

Oh yes and I mention that the phrase "War on motorists" is offensive to the memory of those who fell and suffered in real wars and whom we stood for two minutes today.

I hope that he gets a plethora of such missives.***

 

*actually there is a sort of LTN but it was diverted with a new road and took out a very nasty junction. Done about 7years ago.

** a bit of white paint does not count. And the current arrangement under Victoria Arch is a joke and still dangerous and illegal.

*** there I used it.

Avatar
Podc replied to Brightspark | 3 years ago
1 like

You might want to double check the maths for the 5.5% calculation - I thinks its 55% or so.

Avatar
Brightspark replied to Podc | 3 years ago
0 likes

Oops. 37million drivers population of UK66.65million so 55%.

Thanks

Thats why I hold back from the send button until I have checked and checked again.

I really feel that any letter protesting about this should have some citable facts in it. 

Any suggestions for would be scribes.

Avatar
quiff replied to Brightspark | 3 years ago
1 like

A useful resource for anyone who intends to write to their local authority / paper etc to help the 'silent majority' speak up for cycle lanes against the shouty minority is https://cyclingfallacies.com/en/ - lots of links to articles debunking myths like "shops will get less trade". And they have a "print your own anti-cycling bingo card".      

Avatar
Jenova20 | 3 years ago
7 likes

“However, evidence shows that people who walk and cycle take more trips to the high street over the course of a month than people who drive."

That's a game-changer of an argument right there. These lobby groups will completely ignore that and make up arguments saying the opposite, because people will believe it just to hate on cyclists.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Jenova20 | 3 years ago
5 likes
Jenova20 wrote:

“However, evidence shows that people who walk and cycle take more trips to the high street over the course of a month than people who drive."

That's a game-changer of an argument right there. These lobby groups will completely ignore that and make up arguments saying the opposite, because people will believe it just to hate on cyclists.

That is exactly what has happened over the past forty years at least.  Such schemes are opposed by local traders, not because trade will fall, it doesn't, but because they'll lose their parking place.  There are quite a few studies which show that local high streets are more dependent on pedestrians and cyclists than drivers, but the drivers will tell you the opposite.

Avatar
markieteeee replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
5 likes

And they shoot themselves in the foot.  A high street not too far from me, which has been blighted with awful traffic making it unpleasant to walk along and dangerous to cross for years,  was proposed to become a traffic calmed area couple of years ago. Many, but not all, of the side streets off it were to  become residents-only parking too. There would have been minimal short-stay parking on the high street (mainly disabled spaces and deliveries/loading  only), widened pavements, more trees, benches to sit on, places to lock cycles etc. The street is lined with artisinal shops, nice bars and cafes and these measures could have given it a european plaza type feel.  Most of the traders joined a campaign to get it stopped, on the basis that there is a Sainsbury's up the road and if people can't park close to their shops they won't come.  

Anyone I know who shops there goes specifically for the proper butchers or vegan stores or bakeries or cheese shop or wine merchants or offies and they might visit a few then have a few pints in a pub or visit a cafe; they definitely aren't weighing up whether it's there or a big supermarket. It's a different thing, not in direct competition.

Once social distancing became necessary, many of the bars/cafes/delis wanted to expand seating making use of outside space but there was no room for them to do so because their campaign got the original plans stopped.

Avatar
qwerty360 replied to markieteeee | 3 years ago
2 likes

My local high street had protests due to being shut for major roadworks...

 

All of the restaurants were involved claiming the temporary loss of parking + access (despite the nearby multistory being made free for the duration) would drive them bankrupt as noone could possibly get there...

Just the restaurants have more covers (EACH) than there are parking spaces... Given they are all fairly successful and have overlapping peak times it is impossible for most of there custom to be driving on a simple count of parking spaces, but they appear incapable of grasping this...

Avatar
Bigpikle | 3 years ago
5 likes

So Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, signed it yet as a resident for the last 25 years I can tell you there have been ZERO active travel measures implemented in the last 12 months in the area - not 1 piece of road has been made into a bike lane or pedestrianised, so what is his objection? Despite being a small town with numerous schools within easy walking distance for many families, the roads are continually blocked with school run traffic and the town is continually gridlocked with traffic at peak times simply because the volume of cars is continually increasing.  What a joke.

Avatar
Awavey replied to Bigpikle | 3 years ago
3 likes

Well read the letter, badly written as it is and clearly wasnt proof read by the signatories properly, theres a piece where it suggests motorists and trucks hold opinions...I think they meant truckers but arent truckers motorists too...

Anyway 2/3rds of the letter is just FairFuelUKs (the lobbying group who are the public contact for this All Party Parliamentary group,& btw APPGs have no formal status in parliament) usual gripes about congestion zones and tax payers should pay less tax to drive,but have more say on how their less tax pays for more road building...sorry fairer road policy  3

The cycling part with its 'plethora' of words (seriously who uses plethora to describe anything let alone cycle lanes in the UK) which say almost next to nothing about cycling, is almost a false flag imo designed deliberately to create/provoke media exposure for the letter and FairFuelUKs aims. A letter signed by MPs complaining about tax or congestion zones (most of whose constituents arent impacted anyway) wouldnt end up as 'exclusive' storys in the newspapers, one that can be said to be about cycling and the changes encouraged by government makes it feel more relevant by editors.

Their gripe about cycling ltns,cycle lanes isnt even sustained in the letter as it concludes we need to develop a fair all road users strategy, and demands reassessment of the national and local road strategies.

If I were Grant Shapps I'd heartily agree with that call and first on the table for reassessment would be the 28 billion the government committed to road building. As the 250million to cycling isnt even 1% of that budget, and FairfuelUK claim cycling represents 4%, of road use, Shapps should now allocate 1billion from the UK roads investment into cycling, hows that for fairness...sadly governments rarely behave like that however much fun it would be,but hopefully they file the letter in the most appropriate place for its nonsense.

Avatar
Samtheeagle replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
4 likes

That would be the same Grant Schapps that allocated funding to a village in his Constituancy Area for active travel interventions and then pressed the local council to remove them again cos some locals wrote to him.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
2 likes
Awavey wrote:

The cycling part with its 'plethora' of words (seriously who uses plethora to describe anything let alone cycle lanes in the UK)

Me.

Totally agree with everything else though.

Avatar
ktache replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
2 likes

I delivered a plethora of baked goods to a friend earlier this evening.

I described it as that to her, and told my better half this too.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to ktache | 3 years ago
2 likes
ktache wrote:

I delivered a plethora of baked goods to a friend earlier this evening.

I described it as that to her, and told my better half this too.

Well done; I don't feel so lonely now.

Avatar
Bungle_52 | 3 years ago
14 likes

If motorists don't like cycle lanes all they have to do is to stop intimidating cyclists on the road and endangering their lives. They could even go as far as treating us with the respect we deserve for helping to cut congestion and helping to save the planet. We could then all use the roads together. Probem solved.

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to Bungle_52 | 3 years ago
9 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

If motorists don't like cycle lanes all they have to do is to stop intimidating cyclists on the road and endangering their lives. They could even go as far as treating us with the respect we deserve for helping to cut congestion and helping to save the planet. We could then all use the roads together. Probem solved.

D'y'know, I have a sneaking suspicion that the ones who hate cycle lanes are the ones who do the intimidating.....

Avatar
alchemilla | 3 years ago
11 likes

These are the letter's signatories:
Craig Mackinlay MP;  Sir David Amess MP;   Steve Baker MP;   Bob Blackman MP;   Andrew Bridgen MP;   Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP;   Gordon Henderson MP;   Jonathan Lord MP;   Karl McCartney MP;   Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP;   Andrew Rosindell MP;   Greg Smith MP;   Henry Smith MP;  James Sunderland MP.

If one of these men is your MP, get on to him straight away.  We mustn't let them think that their views are shared by the majority.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 3 years ago
14 likes

"Former minister for cycling Robert Goodwill is among 14 backbench Conservative MPs who have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to withdraw support for emergency cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods, claiming that the policy is “indefensible.”  Kind of shows just how much he actually supported and believed in his role.

Rule 1 - Never trust a tory.

Rules 2 through 10 - Never trust a tory.

The real problem is that Shapps is a tory and has a history of being rather less than competent, so just like the rest of the cabinet.  I can see him buckling under the pressure of the extremist driving groups, who exhibit their addiction and complete lack of understanding of transport every time they publish something.

Question is, how do we counter this absolute nonsense?  Only by writing to our MPs and making our views very clear.  Find your MP and let him know; no swearing please, just a forthright expression of your views about cycle provision and how urgent it is to get it done, for all the usual reasons; obesity, health, pollution, climate change, sustainability etc.  Oh, nearly forgot the biggest one; congestion.

https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

EDIT: Well said Duncan!  Ideal for quoting to your MP and councillors.

2nd EDIT: coincidentally just came across this paper, which shows that reducing road space for motor vehicles doesn't increase congestion.  https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/disappearing_traffic_cairns.pdf

Avatar
markieteeee replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
9 likes

I recently e-mailed my local councillors along with my MP thanking them for the LTN measures in my neighbourhood and expressing many of the things you mention.  I feel that they probably usually hear from the vocal minority who are anti such measures so it's well worth doing.  I would recommned including your local councillors too, as they are likely to be the ones in a position to implement local schemes.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to markieteeee | 3 years ago
3 likes

I agree that you should contact your local Cllrs as they are the ones voting through the change on a local level. They get plenty of abuse and negative correspondence so positive feedback is probably very welcome. Also contact your 'safer travel' team in your council. (They may be 'smarter travel' / 'active travel') They are the officers who are implementing the schemes. Let them know you support the schemes. And get all your friends to do the same. 

Avatar
alchemilla | 3 years ago
10 likes

It would be interesting to know how the former cycling minister expects people to cycle more and help deliver the government's zero carbon targets without interventions such as these. Please explain yourself, Mr Goodwill.
It makes you suspect his heart wasn't in it when years ago he was given the cycling brief.

Avatar
brooksby | 3 years ago
10 likes

"the All Party Parliamentary Group Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and Hauliers"

 

Erm - how many years have they had a freeze on fuel duty...?

Avatar
Awavey replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
5 likes

was frozen for the 10th year running at this years budget, so since 2011, worth around 1 billion every year, it fluctuates depending on the price of oil.

Avatar
Jenova20 replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:

"the All Party Parliamentary Group Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and Hauliers"

 

Erm - how many years have they had a freeze on fuel duty...?

Exactly this. The fuel duty freeze should be abolished before the end of this parliament, and only public transport should get any kind of fuel duty discount.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to Jenova20 | 3 years ago
2 likes

instead we have fuel that costs 15% less than it did 6 years ago. Any other costs people can point at that had had that sort o reduction?

The escalator was stopped at a time when oil prices were rising, so there was a doule increase, but oil prices have fallen and duty hasn't increased. Making driving cheaper than it was, while public transport costs have risen.

Avatar
Jetmans Dad replied to wycombewheeler | 3 years ago
3 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

instead we have fuel that costs 15% less than it did 6 years ago.

Indeed ... it is only a couple of Summers ago that we transported my daughter to York weekly for a course (around 40 miles from us) and we would make sure to fill the tank at Morrisons just outside the city walls because it was less than £1.30 per litre whereas between £1.30 and £1.36 around us. 

Filled up at Asda near home last night for less than £1.10 per litre. 

This is not the way to disincentivise motor traffic. 

Avatar
Captain Badger | 3 years ago
13 likes

"War on Motorists"

This would indicate that motorists are being killed by cyclists and pedestrians

If it is a war then in terms of the butcher's bill the motorists are giving a good account of themselves..... 

Avatar
NPlus1Bikelights replied to Captain Badger | 3 years ago
1 like

Second after the great war on CFCs.

Avatar
Jenova20 replied to NPlus1Bikelights | 3 years ago
0 likes
NPlus1BikelightsNJerseys wrote:

Second after the great war on CFCs.

 

Chlorofluorocarbons?

What did those poor refridgerator gases ever do to you?

Avatar
ktache replied to Jenova20 | 3 years ago
0 likes

Not me personally, but many Australians developed skin cancer from their effects.

Latest Comments