Wednesday, 4 September 2013

RAC foundation: Should road infrastructure come from road infrastructure budget or somewhere else?

The RAC foundation seems to be drifting more and more off tangent. For a "research" organisation, well, their blog post seems like a daily mail content generator.

Today, Should cycling money come from road or rail funds?

Here it picks on the fact that Maria Eagle, Shadow Transport Secretary, called for a proportion of the UK road budget to be spent on cycling infrastructure, and calls it out:

Ms Eagle talks only about diverting funding for roads to boost cycling infrastructure. 

See that? The RAC foundation has just come out and declared that none of the billions spent on roads should be spent on bicycles. Instead they question whether HS-2 should be it.

Well, the HS2 economics are bogus, and as the RAC note, you could get everyone in the UK a bicycle and have lots of spare change -£36B to be precise, which would come in handy making it safe to cycle.

Yet why does the RAC seem to be resisting spending money on infrastructure to make it safe to cycle? Is that meant to be completely separate from the many bypasses and roundabouts being built from the £28B spending spree?

Because if they do think that cycling should come out of a separate budget than roads, then why do pedestrians get pavements in most road developments? Why isn't the RAC bemoaning the fact that pavements and zebra crossings come out of the "road budget" and not something else?

The answer is obvious: if the RAC said that HS2 should fund pavements rather than the road budget, everyone would laugh at them. Yet here they seem unable to accept or recognise that bicycles are a legitimate form of transport, and that the money spent on the UK road infrastructure should accomodate them.

The daftest bit is when they come over all defensive and say "is the demand there?".
Another thought, of course, is whether there is or is not the significant latent demand for cycling infrastructure that the suggestion of much more spending on cycling implies. Here, a recently Parliamentary written answer suggested that nationwide only a tiny fraction of journeys are undertaken by bike, and that this is not expected to change significantly for at least a couple of decades, which suggests that spending lots of money on cycling infrastructure is not a good idea.
That parliamentary question is flawed in that it compares #of miles per transport, not no. of journeys, so the long-haul drives would skew the figures. If you look at short-distance journeys the percentage, while atrocious, is less so: we are seeing about 10% of adults cycling per month (again, bogus numbers, but a different way to look at them).

So here's a proposal to the RAC. Why not give the cyclists the exact fraction of the road budget that reflects their use in a region? In central London, that would mean 25% of the spend; in central bristol, probably 10-15%. Spend that money to make cycling safe and a virtuous cycle would kick in: more people cycle, more cycling budget. Eventually it would even propagate to places like S. Gloucs.


  1. Their "is the demand there?" Irks me no end. No cycling facility means low cycling. Cannot measure the need for a door by the number of people walking through a wall!

  2. Build it and they will come.