As predicted last week the Government has preempted the current All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry by announcing £62 million of funding for ‘pro-cycling measures’ in England excluding London.On the subject of the APPCG transport minister Norman Baker said of its co-chairs Ian Austin MP (Labour, Dudley North) and Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge) “They’re both cycle enthusiasts but they’re also realistic”.
Mainstream discourse still likes to hint that those who travel by bike are head-in-the-clouds idealists while treating fantasists who imagine you can reduce traffic jams by constructing highways as exemplars of cool rationality, even though the blind faith that building or widening roads relieves motor-traffic congestion went underground with a stake through it’s heart in 1994. The killer report was funded and published by the Department of Transport but perhaps their copy’s fallen down the back of a radiator somewhere?
Big ticket infrastructure – for example – a £32 billion, or probably more, railway line, whose economic justification is based on the assumption that you can’t work in a mainline train carriage, is regarded as a critical national policy issue, while English provincial towns and cities have to bid for modest ‘Cycle City Ambition Grants’, in a contest that can only have 2 or 3 successful candidates.
Distributing funds by ‘inviting bids’ and holding a beauty contest is wasteful and divisive. It might be a lot to you or me, but in national public-spending terms £62 million is half a peanut.