September 2013

Get Britain Cycling!

Spokes members Mark Lazarowicz MPSheila Gilmore MP and Ian Murray MP all spoke in the 2 September UK Parliament debate on Julian Huppert MP‘s motion in support of the Get Britain Cycling report, with several references in Parliament to Spokes, Edinburgh Council and Pedal on Parliament…

Watch our 3 MP members speak here!

Around 100 MPs attended for some or all the debate – a high turnout for a private member’s debate – and after a 4-hour session there was a unanimous vote in support of the motion, which stated…

That this House welcomes the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report “Get Britain Cycling”; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.

The report Get Britain Cycling [pdf 5.8MB] [Summary 3.0MB] resulted from a major 2012-13 APPCG Inquiry – to which Spokes made a submission [940k] based in part on our Edinburgh experience.

Sadly, the UK government has so far shown little sign of taking the APPCG recommendations seriously, with a recent announcement which still leaves cycle funding below what it was when they came into office [see below].  Nor does the government’s official response to the APPCG report inspire much confidence.

The debate was intended to increase the pressure on government – time will tell if it succeeded.  It was also accompanied outside Parliament by a 5000-strong demonstration organised by London Cycling Campaign.

Before the debate, Spokes contacted all MPs from Edinburgh and the Lothians, urging them to attend.  We are delighted that our 3 MP members above all attended and all managed to speak, including the following highlights!

Ian Murray:Will he join me in paying tribute to Spokes, the Edinburgh cycling charity, which has done so much to help that increase [the big rise in cycle use in Edinburgh over the last 10 years] and also the volunteers who organised Pedal on Parliament 1 and 2? There were 4,000 cyclists at the Scottish Parliament just a few months ago, and I completed the second one myself, on a tandem.”

Mark Lazarowicz:We have a very effective grass-roots campaign in the form of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, of which I have been a member for many years. That campaign has consistently and in a well-informed way put pressure on local government and central Government to deliver both cycle spending and the integration of policies in wider planning and transport activity, to give cycling a higher profile. We have also seen the very successful Pedal on Parliament initiative, which started in 2012 with a couple of thousand people lobbying the Scottish Parliament at the end of a cycle ride, and which in May this year ended up with 4,000 people in a very impressive lobby of the Scottish Parliament.

My hon. Friend points to the commitment of Edinburgh council not just to maintain a 5% level of all transport spend, both revenue and capital, on cycling but to increase it year on year by 1%, which is a major commitment. In a briefing to some of us earlier, Chris Boardman said that [Edinburgh] was the first city in the UK to make that commitment.” … ” Let us hope that the SNP at Scottish Government level will follow the example of its colleagues on Edinburgh council.”  [Info point: Edinburgh Council is run by a Labour/SNP coalition, with Labour the largest party].

Sheila Gilmore:  “The local council [Edinburgh] has committed 5% of its transport budget, to rise by 1% each year to 9%.” … “Even in [Edinburgh] … the proposal for how to deal with Princes street once the trams arrive and start working was, disappointingly, to have an only one-way cycling along that prime street of the city. …  For many of us [cycling is] a daily event, and people need to go from A to B easily. …  Perhaps Edinburgh council is listening, along with other councils, because they have to make it easy … as that will encourage a lot of people to get cycling.”

For the whole debate see Hansard [HC Deb, 2 September 2013, c66].  For the full contributions from the above MPs search for ‘cycling‘ in the ‘speeches’ box at Mark LazarowiczSheila Gilmore;  Ian Murray  [this will also find other mentions of cycling by these MPs].


Of course cycling policy and funding in Scotland comes largely under the Scottish Parliament [and similarly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly] and therefore much of the above debate focussed on England, where the cycling policies of the UK government apply.

How does cycling investment in Scotland and England compare?

  • Funding for cycling is very difficult to calculate and compare as it comes from a range of different budgets in both countries.  However, our analysis suggests that cycling investment per person per year from all main Scottish Government sources is around £3-£4 and it seems likely that it is somewhat less in England.  In any case, both are way below the “£10 increasing to £20” recommended in the report and common in European cycling countries.  Spokes evidence to the CAPS review nearly a year ago showed that £20 per head was by then the minimum likely to give any hope of reaching the Scottish Government’s oft-stated 2020 ambition for 10% of all trips to be by bike.
  • The Scottish SNP government and the UK Conservative/LibDem Coalition share the dubious honour of now investing less in cycling than when they took power.  One of the first Coalition actions was to scrap Cycling England and its fundingLikewise the SNP in its first two years drastically cut back Sustrans funding for work with councils across Scotland, and it also year by year chipped away at the Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets fund.  In both England and Scotland, major campaigns have largely reversed the cuts [in Scotland the 11/12 budget campaign, reinforced in 12/13 by Pedal on Parliament] although total investment has still not returned fully even to its previous levels in either country.
  • The SNP and the UK coalition also share the distinction of investing in massive road programmeswhilst at the same time running campaigns to encourage people to ditch the car and go by bike!  The Scottish Government invests roughly £20m p.a. in cycling but promises £3000m to dual the A96, £3000m to dual the A9 and £1500m for a new Forth Bridge, to name just the more costly road projects.  The UK government recently announced £77m (over 3 years?) of which just £35m is new money to provide for cycling, alongside “the largest programme of road building in 50 years.”
  • One interesting difference is that the UK government’s England cycling investment is largely concentrated in a few (mainly city) areas which with local funding added in brings investment up to around £10 per head (though there is no guarantee this will be maintained once the government’s one-off grant ends).  In contrast, in Scotland government funding is more widely spread, with every council getting something.   This means that no council achieves a consistent £10 per head, although a few do in a one-off exceptional year where a large sum is assembled from various sources for a specific major route.  Both approaches have their merits – England will more easily see what is achievable in the short to medium term with concentrated investment, but some councils may do nothing at all; whilst in Scotland every Council does at least get some cycling money and so does have to ‘think bike’ to some limited extent, but no council is likely to achieve much unless, like Edinburgh, they are willing to invest significantly from their own internal resources.

Scotland or England, both are still at a very primitive stage in terms of cycling as a form of transport.   The next big decision-point in Scotland will be the 2014/15 budget, later this autumn.  If you have strong feelings email your MSPs now, tell them what you want to see in the budget and ask them to raise this with Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP.  Send us any useful replies.



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