Thursday 15 January 2009

Funding priorities

In the last week I received a question from a cycling officer with a council in the UK asking how I thought the Dutch would re-arrange a road in the area where he works.

The example is a quiet road in a residential area which needs to cross a rather busy narrow urban road at the point of a mini-roundabout. When I looked at the situation he was describing it was initially rather difficult to know where to start. I couldn't think of anywhere here anything like that. Unpleasantness for cyclists has pretty much been eradicated here.

However, on thinking about it, there are places here in Assen which could have been similar to what he described if not for the work that has already been done. I think that the conditions on Groningerstraat in Assen could have been similar. In particularly, I think this junction could provide a model for what might work in the position that was asked about.

I sent email back to the cycling officer saying just this, and got back a reply including the following:

My limited experience of what they would do suggests that they would signalise. Sadly, this isn't a realistic option for me either as this comes in at about £225k minimum.

And there lies the problem with a lot of things in the UK. There is simply not enough of a budget for cycling. Cycling officers at councils in the UK are generally good sorts, but they are not provided with enough money or enough power to make the changes that the UK needs.

Howard Peel worked as a cycling officer in the UK and went public about the problems faced daily by those who work in council offices in the UK and have a responsibility for cycling.

I also heard in the news today that Heathrow airport is to have a third runway at a cost of (at least) £9 billion, and that £6 billion are to be spent on widening and otherwise improving the motorways in the UK. Between these two transport schemes that amounts to £15 billion, or nearly £230 per person in the UK. Cycle funding for the whole of the the UK generally struggles to exceed £1 per person per year. The funding is so bad that British cyclists in 2007 were in the position of having to fight hard to win the equivalent of a mere 80p per person as a one off payment to Sustrans on a TV game show.

It's not really a lack of money which stops cycling being funded properly in the UK. It's a lack of a desire to spend it on cycling. Until Britain gets to grips with the need to actually spend a little to create conditions which make cycling a preferred, safe and convenient means of transport, cycling will continue to languish.

I took the photo at the top, of my folding bike leaning on a bike stand with inbuilt pump, and next to a locker holding a public bicycle, at Schiphol airport when I went to meet somewhere there earlier this year. It is possible for cycling and air travel both to receive funding.

1 comment:

Frog said...

I cycle in London every day, and have been doing so for about eight years now, and I can't describe just how frustrating the lack of progress for cycling in the city is!

I've created an evolving bike map to try and encourage safe cycling in the UK and around the world -