March 2011

Cycling England killed: final message

Cycling England disappears on 1st April 2011 under the UK government’s Bonfire of the Quangos – a tragic and ill-considered loss, casting doubt on the government’s supposed wish to grow cycle use, and on its ‘green’ agenda.

[Update Jan 2014 … Some website links have changed since this article was written.  For relevant materials, the following are correct at this date]
National archives: Cycling England links to past & recent sources [not all working]
National archives: Cycling England materials
CILT Cycling Hub [they took on and updated much Cycling England material]

Although not operating in Scotland, Cycling England’s research (publicly available on Cycling England website – this link will soon cease working or will transfer to DfT!!) and the fantastic success of its English Cycling Demonstration Towns (at a time when cycle use remained static in most parts of England) have been a real inspiration and source of evidence and ideas for cycling developments in Scotland.

Incidentally, Cycling England is not really comparable to Cycling Scotland.  Cycling England had a much wider remit, notably allocating the former UK government’s growing funding for the Cycling Demonstration Towns.  In contrast, the two main cycling-relevant Scottish funding streams are dispensed by the Scottish Government itself (CWSS is allocated by the government to councils; and the Sustainable & Active Transport budget to a variety of organisations including Cycling Scotland and, primarily, Sustrans).

Cycling England was not without some criticism, for example that some of the demonstration towns should have done more to improve urban road cycling conditions rather than concentrating quite so heavily on offroad and back street, but overall Cycling England did a wonderful job – raising bike use substantially, against the general trend, and producing valuable evidence and technical materials.

The UK government is not even planning to continue developing the Cycling England website with all its hard-won valuable research, not even with later results from the Cycling Demonstration Towns.  Fortunately, however, the independent professional body CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport) has stepped in to preserve and continue developing the materials [see link below].

Below, we print the Cycling England announcement of CILT’s intention, followed by the final message from Cycling England’s Director, Philip Darnton – who also spoke recently about Cycling England [pdf 3.3MB] at the Spokes/Cyclenation conference in Edinburgh.

New Home for Cycling England’s Online Resources

Starting on 1st April a range of guidance notes, case studies, reports and other resources from Cycling England’s website will start to be available at hosted by The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport. The content will be uploaded gradually so a formal announcement concerning the facility will be made in due course. It will include all the evidence from the first three years of the Cycling Demonstration Towns programme, as well as the ‘Making a Cycling Town’ report which describes what the towns invested in to get people cycling – a wealth of resources for practitioners inspired by the videos to seek out more in-depth information.

Farewell Note from Cycling England

Cycling England is just about to celebrate its sixth anniversary. Set up by the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, in March 2005 with a budget of £5 m. pa, and a team of two we have come a long way and achieved much in those six years.

Thanks to the enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment of everyone involved, from the 18 Cycling Towns, to all the Bikeability training and Bike It schemes, as well as the more recent “Finding New Solutions” projects, we have already had a dramatic impact on the culture of cycling in England.

Remember the key statistics from just three years in the Cycling Demonstration Towns:

  • Cycling trips up by 27%
  • More people cycling
  • Cycling to school doubled in Bike It schools
  • Real health impact on physical activity
  • Results not seen in the rest of the country
  • Increase in line with London’s achievement
  • On track to double cycling trips in a decade

With the backing of the Professional Support Team as well as the crucial involvement of Sustrans and CTC and other partners in their many schemes, cycling was well on track for long- term growth and much positive momentum. From such a great group of committed practitioners – “people who get things done and make a real difference”.

The Government’s decision to abolish Cycling England – as being a “quango” is regrettable, and cost ineffective but it is not the demise of this little group of managers which is to be lamented it is the loss of the nationally extended network of enthusiasts, with their acquired knowledge, skills and engagement which is the real waste. Every one of you who receive this – and many others besides – have worked to bring the idea of a real “Cycling England” to life. To each of you goes the credit and the thanks. You have achieved an amazing amount in a very short time, and already it is beginning to show right across England.

Our core hypothesis, back in 2005, was that with a consistent strategy and continuity of funding at a level equivalent to that of “cycling towns in Europe”, we could reasonably expect to achieve similar rates of growth in everyday cycling. These first six years have already proved us right, and we will all treasure our small part in that success for ever.

Unfortunately, Government has yet to appreciate these key lessons of consistency, continuity and the need for a long term strategy for an integrated transport policy for Britain. Sadly cycling still seems to be a “party political football” to be played with according to fashionable ideology or dogma.

But the challenge facing us – of a real change to behaviour, and of much more cycling especially for short urban trips – is not a “quick fix”. We never thought it was.

So my final message as the Chair of the almost extinct Cycling England is one of determination. Every one of us knows that the challenge is worth all our effort; we all know how relevant and how important it is. In our various ways we will not give up. We know that investment in cycling works; it brings results; it makes a difference to everyone’s life. It’s worth it.

With my sincerest thanks to each and everyone of you and my very best wishes for your future….. and cycling’s.

Phillip Darnton
28 March 2011

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