Cycle Active City 2021

I attended the recent one day Cycle Active City online conference on behalf of the Derwent Valley Trust. An interesting event with various sources of information which I’ve tried to summarise.

Recordings of the sessions can be found on Youtube

There was an attendance of about 230 people with half of those being Local Authority officers (generally involved in traffic planning). 1% were councillors and there were also a number of cycle campaign groups.

Presentations from various speakers including DfT, Sustrans, Cycling UK

Some useful links:

  • Raleigh announced new electric cargo bikes
  • ACTdev project attempts to use data to decide on appropriate places for new housing developments. A work in progress.
  • Dr Peter Cox presented on power and privilege in implementing projects as detailed in his book – “ The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure”
  • Julian Bell is a London councillor, was leader of Ealing Council and has experience of backlash from implementing cycle schemes which he has written about in the Guardian
  • Park Active is an active travel initiative led by Car Parking companies.

The initial plenary session was chaired by Roger Geffen of Cycling UK and included a presentation from him and from Rupert Furness of the DfT.

The progress in improving cycle infrastructure was covered. Previous government plan was to double cycling by 2025 (compared to 2013). However COVID has added an emphasis on pace of change – i.e. get to the targets much faster. DfT figures show cycling up 46% in 2020 compared to 2019 and cycle sales up 40%. DfT believe quality of any spend is important and believe LTN1/20 is key to ensuring quality.

Active Travel England body was announced a while ago but is yet to go live. It will be a statutory consultee for planning and check plans for suitable cycle and walking provisions in, for example, new housing developments. There will be a new cycling and walking commissioner.

Changes to the Highways Code proposed by Cycling UK and others will go ahead.

A report after 1 year of the “Gear Change” plan has been published. This includes a foreword from Boris Johnson that includes “[we will] support councils, of all parties, which are trying to promote cycling and bus use. And if you are going to oppose these schemes, you must tell us what your alternative is….” and “schemes must be in place long enough for their benefits and disbenefits to be properly evidenced”.

There is a new statutory Network Management Duty on local authorities in urban areas to reallocate road space for cycling and walking. LAs must consider cycle lanes, road closures, 20mph zones, school streets, etc.

England funding for cycling is now about £8.45 per person (outside London) which is 80x more than 2005 and 6x more than 2010/20 but still less than the £23 per head in Wales and £58 in Scotland. English funding is still 25-30% of what is needed according to Government’s own statistics.

Future cycle funding will be about 70/80% capital and 20/30% revenue. Capital spend will be mainly driven by LCWIPs plus some spend on the National Cycle Network. Revenue spend will include subsidies for bikes, training programmes and bike share programmes.

Roger’s summary slide highlighted the Derby Cycling Group tube map

The Propensity to Cycle tool uses data from the 2011 census on how people commute plus data on school travel to show how existing patterns of different travel modes will change as the mix changes (e.g. by meeting the government target of increasing cycling). The PCT tool is the preferred one by the DfT for justifying LCWIPs. All the data in the tool can be downloaded for use within other software and the workshops described how this can be done using QGIS (open source GIS software) and R (statistical programming language).

Dr Robert Davis of the Road Danger Reduction Forum argued that opposition to cycling projects is generally driven by ideology (of the opponents) and that rational argument is not going to change their views. There is a general “RIGHT to drive where, when, why and how the driver wants” privilege that needs to be challenged. A lot of opposition assumes this right as a given – it shouldn’t be. Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) opposition is much less than reported in the media.

There was a general feeling that referring to successful schemes elsewhere (e.g. Holland, London) is not close enough to smaller UK cities and carries little weight. Need to find good schemes locally to publicise to get support for more schemes.