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Government planning to fail on cycling

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Despite huge public and cross-party parliamentary support for substantially increased cycle use between now and 2050, the Government is expecting cycle use to FALL between 2015 and 2025, with little change between then and 2040.
Transport Model forecast for cycling 2010-2040
Transport Model forecast for cycling 2010-2040

New figures, obtained by CTC through a parliamentary question, suggest that the Government's 'National Transport Model' is predicting an initial increase in cycle use, due to the economic downturn (from 2.9 bn miles in 2010 to 3.4 bn miles in 2015). However, it then falls again to 3.0 bn miles in 2025, a 12% reduction in a decade.

Cycle use is then expected to remain at around 3.1 bn miles throughout the 2030s.  However, this small increase is less than the forecast growth in Britain's population, meaning that the average person will be cycling 12% less in 2040 than in 2010.

If it wants to deliver David Cameron's promised 'cycling revolution', the Government needs to develop a radically different transport model, based on the assumption of a cycle-friendly future. Planners and engineers can then start designing our roads, junctions and communities to make that future come true.

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director, CTC

The predicted fall would have been even steeper if the model hadn't assumed that the Government's encouragement of cycling will boost cycle use by just 5% in 2015 - rising to 10% in 2035 - compared with what would otherwise have happened.  Despite David Cameron's stated ambition to launch a 'cycling revolution' this summer, the model reveals the Government's astonishing lack of faith in its current policies to deliver anything like the ambition called for by the cross-party parliamentary 'Get Britain Cycling' report this summer.

Instead, the model is predicting a 43% increase in motor vehicle mileage between 2010 and 2040. Even allowing for population growth, this represents a 20% increase in miles travelled per person, based on assumptions that GDP per capita will increase by 66% while fuel prices will fall by 24%. This is expected to increase congestion by 61%.  The model also predicts that the HS2 rail link will make little difference.

CTC's Campaigns & Policy Director Roger Geffen said:

“The arcane predictions of the National Transport Model are seriously undermining the case for quality cycle provision.  By assuming that motor traffic will increase massively while cycle use remains static, it ensures that councils’ computer programmes say “no” to cycle facilities, predicting that these will merely worsen the very congestion they are meant to tackle. Instead of saying 'Build it and they'll come', the Government is effectively saying, 'Assume the cars will come but no cyclists, so don't build anything for cyclists.' It's an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy.

"If it wants to deliver David Cameron's promised 'cycling revolution', the Government needs to develop a radically different transport model, based on the assumption of a healthy, sustainable and cycle-friendly future. Planners and engineers can then start designing our roads, junctions and communities to make that future come true.

I am disappointed that officials at DfT are using such unambitious figures for cycling. These fall well below the figures we recommended in the Get Britain Cycling report, which were unanimously supported by Parliament.

Julian Huppert
Co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

There was strong cross-party and public support for the 'Get Britain Cycling' inquiry's proposed targets, to increase cycle use to 10% of trips by 2025 and to 25% by 2050. Yet the Government's model appears to be predicting that cycling's percentage share of road trips in England will increase from 2.1% in 2010 to just 2.4% in 2015. It then falls back again to 2.1% in 2025, rising only marginally thereafter to 2.2% in 2035.

After taking account of population growth, this means that the average person in England will be making 4% fewer journeys by cycle in 2035 than in 2010, and cycling 12% fewer miles.

The figures also include an assumption that the average length of a cycle trip will decrease, even though average cycle trip lengths have actually increased by 50% in the past decade (from 2.2 miles to 3.3 miles).

Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport at University College London, and author of the Get Britain Cycling report, has been quoted in the Times, saying: “It is not just that they got the numbers wrong, they got the direction of change wrong, which seems to me to be a much bigger problem. If it says it is going down when it is going up, there is something seriously wrong with the model.”

A blog by CTC's Chris Peck considers the likely flaws in the Government's model.  CTC is urging DfT to develop an alternative model scenario based on the targets of the Get Britain Cycling report, to assess the resulting impacts on congestion, pollution, greenhouse emissions and public health.

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