The Suffolk Cycling Strategy that lacks ambition

Back in June 2014 Suffolk County Council released their Suffolk Cycling Strategy. It has some good and expected bits that I can’t complain about, such as why people should cycle, however it’s rather lacking in detail and vision on how to get more people cycling. The how is relegated to a 1 page table of actions and outcomes and another 1 page appendix of planned projects.

The main vision is:

“Our vision is to increase the number of people cycling in Suffolk, firmly establishing it as a normal form of transport for everyone.”

In general it’s good, however it doesn’t set any target of how much increase that is measurable.

All the reasons of why people should cycle, with all the benefits, is all good and what I would expect, as are the various statistics that are listed.

The delivery of the strategy has essentially been left for the single page appendix. The list of potential funding sources on page 11 is impressive, however there is no commitment from Suffolk County Council to have a specific proportion of the transport budget allocated to cycling infrastructure. This contrasts with Edinburgh City Council who have allocated 5% of the transport budget to cycling infrastructure, increasing that by 1% a year.

The first item in the list of references is a link to the Get Britain Cycling report, however only mentions it as the “All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group”. The strategy also ignores one of the key recommendations of a cycling budget of the report which is the amount of sustained funding required for cycling. If this was implemented then there would be between £7.2 million and £14.5 million spent on cycling each year in Suffolk. Or between £1.3 million and £2.6 million in Ipswich alone. Full figures for all local authorities based on the last census are available in my previous blog post.

In appendix A – the medical and public health evidence – it’s noted that the:

“minimum annual health cost of physical inactivity in Suffolk is more than £14,000,000” – Executive Summary, Appendix A: Suffolk Cycling Strategy

Which works out to be about £20 per person, which is also the upper figure recommended by the Get Britain Cycling Report! Thus solely on the grounds of public health, the council should be increasing their spending on quality infrastructure, thus reducing the health care costs.

This would avoid the current problem of any significant changes to the cycle infrastructure require either new developments to contribute section 106 funds, or there to be a bid to various funds, which I discussed recently in the hidden costs of British cycle funding.

The main part of the strategy document doesn’t discuss the current barriers to cycling such as subjective safety. Appendix A does have a whole section on the barriers. As it’s a health document it primarily covers stats about risks of injury and where injuries are likely to occur. However the perceived barriers by people who don’t currently cycle, or don’t cycle for more journeys are not covered anywhere. Rather than just countering these perceived barriers and lack of subjective safety with education; looking at improving the infrastructure would go a long way to changing things, as improving the infrastructure, is more practical, and cheaper than stopping everyone (both motor vehicle drivers and cyclists) as they enter Suffolk and ensuring they have been given some training on how to “share the space” or “taking the lane”.

Lets look at some of the actions and outcomes proposed. There is a full A4 page with a table covering the strategy, actions, and outcomes. What’s there is good, however there could be more detail, I’d expect the bulk of the strategy discussing how the strategies would be implemented and potential barriers to implementing the strategy and how these barriers would be overcome.

The row of the table on fostering enthusiasm for cycling in young people is good for encouraging schemes such as Bikeability, Sustrans Bike It, and the Primary school bike project; and also facilitating school travel plans. However this seems to require the schools to make the first move, and to want to run the schemes. What happens when a school head refuses to allow kids to cycle to school as it’s too dangerous? I’d like to see an action where the council work with schools to ensure that routes to schools are safe from an infrastructure perspective. How about an ambition of every single school pupil in Suffolk having Bikeability training to level 3, with further training as required?

The strategy mentions to “adopt best practice as described in the Manual for Streets 2”. What happens if better advice such as Making Space for Cycling, or the upcoming TfL London Cycling Design Standards, or even the Dutch Design manual for bicycle traffic (CROW)? Should these be included explicitly, or a simpler action of looking for and acting on upcoming standards and advice?

One of the actions is to “Focus on improving areas with infrastructure to maximise return”. I’m assuming this means cycle infrastructure. This is all very well, however there would then be an increasing disparity in which parts of the county have infrastructure. As an example the infrastructure in Ipswich varies quite widely, and this suggests that the council will improve current facilities over doing something radical or larger in an area which desperately requires improved cycling facilities, for example where there are none in the lead up to a school. This is already a significant problem in the South West of Ipswich with several schools close together, and sixth form college where many pupils drive there, and there’s no parking for pupils on site.

I’d like to see some additions to the strategy “Create a safe and cycle friendly environment” such  as considering modal filtering, and looking at whole areas to see how rat runs can be removed. Also using temporary infrastructure to create modal filters or segregated cycle tracks is a great way to trial a scheme before going permanent with it. This has happened in New York, and is currently happening in London with the mini Holland schemes.

This has been hard to write, as a lot of the content in the strategy can’t be argued with. I really want to see a huge improvement to the cycle infrastructure so that everyone feels safer cycling and thus increasing the number of people cycling and gaining the various benefits mentioned in the strategy.

On Thursday 9th October Cycle Ipswich are taking the lead from Leeds Cycling Campaign’s Cycling: A Vision for Leeds, by holding a public meeting to gather ideas for a cycling vision for Ipswich, with the aim of using Cyclescape to have a long list of items to improve. Full details are available on the Cycle Ipswich website.

6 Replies to “The Suffolk Cycling Strategy that lacks ambition”

  1. Thanks for this. You seem to have covered everything. Separate from this, but related, I would like to see action from the authorities against pavement parking and wheelie bins blocking pavements, ignoring existing restricted access eg Dogs Head St , rat running when traffic on radial routes is at a standstill eg Barholomew St/ Alexander Rd. Perhaps a change to the borough looking after some or all of these things as I think they are affecting people’s ability to use walking and cycling as well as degrading public space. Oh, and I didn’t mention urban speeding and inappropriate speed….

  2. Hi

    I live in Sudbury and agree wholeheartedly with your blog. The cycling strategy references well, has the right intentions but promises exactly zero. We have been told that SCC are conducting a Cycling Infrastructure review, quite what they review and how is unclear, currently Sudbury has practically no cycling infrastructure and what it does have is low quality or has faults or as in the Cornard Road Toucan Crossing is frankly laughable.

    I created a facebook page called cyclesafe sudbury and joined a Sudbury Town Council appointed “Cycling Group” but they are just contemplating more poor quality shared paths and have none of the vision or imagination necessary to provide high quality cycling infrastructure as outlined by the All Party Report. Additionally I was only invited to 3 meetings in 12 months, One I was able to attend, one I could not attend due to short notice and it being during a storm (and my route being along the A131) and the last had its time brought forward without me being informed.

    We also have just been offered five options for a redesign of a major Town Centre junction that screams for a Poynton Style Shared space solution but we are only offered roundabouts and traffic light controlled junctions. An unelected quango has recommended two options to be worked up but no cycling infrastructure peer review has happened before this happened.

    I suggest that we put more pressure on our Town/Borough/Parish/District councillors prior to the election to support putting pressure on SCC to change its lack of funding for cycling. Other than that we can only hope for a more enlightened Government implementing the All Party report in full.

    I will probably follow the Ipswich lead and get a cycling strategy for Sudbury drawn up by Sudbury Town Council and fight that it only accepts High Quality solutions, not cheap and cheerful as we are undoubtedly going to be lumbered with.

    Regards

    Tim

  3. Pingback: @thebicycldoctor

Leave a Reply