So today marks the last day of existence for Cycling England and so goes the only government funded body that actively pushed cycling as a mode of transport.
The new coalition government decided to ditch Cycling England in the so-called “bonfire of the quangos” last year despite the organisation only have three full time staff and costing only £300,000 to run.
Set up in 2005, the organisation has had many achievements. Bikeability, the national cycle training programme, has been a huge success. Up to 300,000 children have taken part in the scheme and numbers continue to rise upwards from the cycle proficiency test that existed before it.
Cycling England was also instrumental in setting up the Cycling City, Cycling Towns programme. Funding of infrastructure and cycle promotion projects across the 18 chosen locations has done much to encourage cycling take up in those places and reverse for the first time the national trend of gradual decline in cycling levels.
Concerns for the future
While funding for Bikeability is being ring fenced by the government, local authorities will now have to compete with other sustainable transport projects for cash via the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to fund any cycle related projects.
This is a rather large fund of £560m compared to Cycling England’s annual £60m budget for cycle specific funding but projects will now have to compete with other alternative modes of transport at local authority level for that money. This is where politics is bound to play a part and cycling could be the loser.
Cycling England has built up a wealth of knowledge and resources since 2005 and there are concerns that this will be lost. It has provided valuable assistance to local authorities and central government in terms of technical advice. The Department of Transport, which now assumes overall responsibility for cycling in England, has already stated that there will be no infrastructure or policy unit to offer guidance for local authorities under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Some good news…
Anyone who has visited the Cycling England website can see its a huge resource with a wealth of information, but this is also disappearing. The site will be held on the national archives, while there is some good news in that the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport will be hosting articles and papers of interest previously hosted on the Cycling England website.
Under The Hub name, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport will upload the catalogue of reference material that Cycling England holds, in time. It also promises that brand new material will also appear regularly, ensuring that information quickly builds into an invaluable source of guidance for cycling stakeholders.
Lets hope that the government doesn’t come to regret the demise of Cycling England. The momentum towards cycling take up in England and other parts of the UK is still there, but it no longer has a captain.