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National Cycling Strategy

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Advice for cyclists and cycling groups on cycling policy

The National Cycling Forum has published this leaflet for cyclists and cycling groups. It explains what central and local government and the Forum itself are doing to encourage cycling. It is intended to assist cyclists and cycling groups to work in partnership with their local authority to develop successful cycling schemes.

The state of cycling today
There are more than 20 million bicycles in the United Kingdom, and more people now own a bicycle than ever before. Recent statistics show that the steady decline in cycling that has been witnessed in the United Kingdom since the 1950s appears to have been halted.

The benefits of cycling
Cycling is beneficial for the economy, the environment, health and welfare. Given the right conditions and support, the main target of the National Cycling Strategy of quadrupling the number of cycle trips by 2012, can be achieved. The help of those with a strong interest in cycling is an essential component in making things better. The gains are:

  • Safer roads and traffic
  • Reduced congestion
  • Improved health and fitness
  • Improved access to employment, leisure or retail facilities
  • Reduced social exclusion
  • Reduced air and noise pollution
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Invigorated rural economies

When seeking to persuade a local authority or other organisation to improve facilities for cyclists it is important to focus on the benefits to that organisation. The references listed at the end of this leaflet can help you to make these points effectively. In particular, Cycling - the way ahead for towns and cities, published by the European Commission Environment Directorate, provides many useful statistics that demonstrate the benefits of cycling.

Government policy supports cycling
In its White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, the Government recognises that cycling can play an important part in a national integrated transport system - it is a flexible, relatively cheap, environmentally friendly and healthy way to travel. But we need to make it easier and safer.

Both the Speed Policy Review and Tomorrow's Roads - Safer for Everyone address the safety issues.

The Government has also published Transport 2010:The 10 Year Plan. This is an investment plan to modernise Britain's transport system. Cycling is an integral element of the plan and all modes of transport will benefit from greatly increased public and private funding over the next ten years.

In addition, the Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation strategy stresses the importance of environmental influences on health and the importance of routine physical activity in people's daily lives. In particular, cycling is recognised as being beneficial for increasing fitness, lowering the risk of heart disease, shedding excess weight and reducing stress.

Local Government is responsible for delivering improvements

To support the National Cycling Strategy, the Government wants to see better provision for cyclists. It requires local authorities to establish a local strategy for cycling as part of their Local Transport Plans (LTPs).

LTPs have to be produced by all local highway authorities in England, except in London where the Mayor has a responsibility to produce an integrated transport strategy, consistent with national policy objectives. London Boroughs will have to produce local implementation plans to put the Mayor's strategy into practice. Separate arrangements apply in Scotland and Wales.

LTPs are strategy documents drawn up at local level in partnership with the community. They do not require comprehensive coverage of individual schemes, but there will be enough information for those assessing plans to understand how they translate into action. There should also be opportunities for people to comment on progress in implementing the LTP.

As part of the LTP process, local authorities are required to produce a report containing an assessment of existing levels of local road traffic, and a forecast of expected growth.The report should also contain targets for reducing the level of local road traffic or its rate of growth, if they consider targets are appropriate.

Both LTPs and Road Traffic Reduction Strategies can be viewed at your local authority's offices.

Local Transport Plan and Cycling Strategy
Your local authority's plans for cycling will be described in its LTP. Local authorities are expected to ensure that all relevant aspects of their LTP (including road safety, planning and social policies) work together with policies to promote cycling.

Local cycling strategies should contain a statement of the percentage increase in cycle trips which the authority expects to achieve by 2012. They should also contain a clear statement of the actions to be taken by March 2006 to put growth on course to support the national target for increases in cycle trips.

Examples of "minimum requirements" and "desirable requirements" are given below:

Strategy to encourage cycling

Minimum requirements

  • A discrete strategy for encouraging cycling, which establishes a clear target that contributes to the national targets for increasing cycle use.
  • Evidence that cyclists have been given a high priority.
  • Evidence that encouraging cycling is part of all transport policies, including road safety strategies.
  • Evidence of interaction with local planning authority to ensure that land use and development planning allows and encourages people to cycle.
  • Evidence that there has been a review of the road network, to establish where improvements to assist cyclists are needed.
  • Assessment of the quality of existing cycle networks, to identify where improvements are necessary.
  • Programme of measures to improve safety of cyclists and reduce conflicts with other traffic, including pedestrians

Characteristics of a good Local Transport Plan

  • Adopts a formal order in which planners consider the needs of different user types, placing cyclist near the top.
  • Partnerships for action with health, education, commercial and voluntary bodies.
  • Plans for improvement of physical provision to be based on methodical application of Cycle Review guidelines (published by the Institute of Highways & Transportation).
  • Cycle Audit all road and traffic schemes.
  • Aims to improve interchanges, and increase opportunities for combined cycle and public transport journeys.
  • Encourages cycling through TravelWise, Travel Plans, Local Agenda 21 and School Travel Plans.
  • Minimises conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

Bikeframe (CTC/Bicycle Association) is a model cycling strategy that can help guide the development of the LTP. You should also see the DETR LTP guidance for local authorities referenced at the end of this leaflet.

Authorities in rural areas should also be aware that cycling can make a valuable contribution to reducing social exclusion and isolation in the countryside. Many journeys in the countryside are over distances that can easily be cycled. Measures that help in making these trips safer may also attract leisure cyclists who, in their turn, will contribute to the turnover of the tourist industry.

Developing the plan
If you feel that your Local Transport Plan does not sufficiently cover the needs of cyclists, your first step might best be to talk to a local cycling user group who may be able to help you with your query. Alternatively you could get in touch directly with the local authority officer with responsibility for cycling. Find out the reason for the deficiency and whether you are able to help. Dialogue between the parties concerned can often resolve issues and prevent many misunderstandings.

Targets and performance indicators

If the plan contains sufficient provision for cyclists but the annual report submitted by the local authority indicates that the targets and performance indicators are not being met, again the first course of action is to talk to the local cycling officer. There are often good reasons for apparent delay or failure that can be easily resolved or addressed.

Cycle Audit and Cycle Review
One of the primary objectives of the National Cycling Strategy (NCS) is to encourage planning and highway authorities to create a cycle-friendly infrastructure. This can be done by making existing roads more attractive for cyclists, and implementing new cycling facilities where necessary. The NCS recommended that specific procedures - Cycle Audit and Cycle Review - should be developed for use by all highway authorities to ensure that cyclists were properly considered in the development of the transport infrastructure.

Cycle audits examine new highway schemes during design and implementation, to make sure that the needs of cyclists are taken into account.

Cycle reviews on the other hand, examine the existing transport infrastructure for ease of use by cyclists. For both audits and reviews authorities should consider the five general requirements of a good cycling infrastructure, as described in Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure (see references).These are; coherence, directness, attractiveness, safety and comfort. This would mean, for example, that a new cycle lane should be part of a wider network (coherence), be part of a route favoured by cyclists (directness), be well lit and signed (attractiveness), be designed to reduce the risk of collision (safety) and be smooth and continuous (comfort). Cycle audit and cycle review procedures seek to ensure that the appropriate design solution is selected and that the following hierarchy of measures, in order of preference, is considered before the design solution is chosen: traffic reduction, traffic calming, junction treatment and traffic management, redistribution of the carriageway and off-road provision. Further information on these principles is available from Cycle Audit and Review (Traffic Advisory Leaflet 7/98), Issues for Traffic Engineers and Transport Planners (an NCF leaflet) and Cycle - Friendly Infrastructure (IHT et al).

Seeking further assistance
In addition to dialogue with the cycling officer, it is also helpful to contact your local councillor or MP and ask him or her to intervene on your behalf, perhaps by bringing the matter to the attention of the local authority transport committee. You can also contact the relevant Government Regional Office for your area (see addresses on back page). This office has no statutory powers to intervene, but can make use of local information when assessing the Local Transport Plan. The secretariat of the National Cycling Forum welcomes feedback from cyclists, as it provides useful intelligence on what measures are successful and those that fail. The information can be used to develop better guidance on what constitutes best practice and so can assist local authorities to improve the quality of their provision.

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