We were all very confident back then as the National Cycling Strategy had just been published. The stated aim was "to double the number of cycle trips in Britain by 2002, and to double them again by 2012."
Amongst bullet point items in the strategy were:
- Develop convenient cycle access to key destinations (has this been done?)
- Improve cycle safety. (in fact, cycling safety has improved less than other modes)
- Allocate priority in road space to cycling (British cyclists can judge for themselves whether this actually happened. The much written about london superhighways are not much of an example.
- Provide cycle parking at all major destinations (London still has less than half the number of cycle parking spaces at its 50 railway stations than Groningen, a city with a 40th of the population, has at one of its three stations)
- Reduce cycle theft (Has this happened ?).
- Raise awareness of the advantages of cycling (training courses, "continuing professional development", and also including school cycle training. Sadly, the rate of children being driven to school has risen dramatically since then and more training did not result in more children cycling).
- Unlock resources to meet the objectives of the strategy (Could that be "jargon" ? I feel that if I knew what it meant I might be able to comment).
- Set up a national cycling forum, producing an annual progress report
The level of cycling in the UK was under 2% of journeys in 1996 (just the same as now) but if the strategy had been a success perhaps that would have increased to around 8% of trips by this date.
It might have helped if there was a bit more concrete stuff being discussed instead of so many "soft measures", but sadly, of course, the proposals were ignored and the strategy was dropped before it achieved anything. A review was written, which starts with "The Government is committed to encouraging more cycling in England" and carries on to explain that actually they'd achieved no increase at all.
This is one of the big problems with cycling in Britain. It's a talking shop. There are many proposals, much time is consumed in discussing things. However, little actually gets done, and what does get done is all too often done extraordinarily badly.
There is soon to be a new National Cycling Plan for England. It would be nice to think this was a guaranteed success, but there are already criticisms about it - such as that the aim is to increase the level of expenditure on cycling to a paltry 0.3% of the transport budget. That's really not taking the problem seriously. Is it really too much to hope for a more positive start and a more outcome this time around ?
It's never too late to start doing the right thing. You just need to actually make a decent start. Until that happens, cycling in Britain will continue to flatline.
Amongst other items in the newsletter were dangerous build-outs on a crossing which was built in a way which was unsafe for cyclists - still unchanged and news that Butt Lane was to be made better for cycling - which didn't happen, though there was recently another inadequate proposal in the same place. This isn't really progress...