Gear Change One Year On

30th July 2021

Gear Change One Year On
Image from cover of Gear Change One Year On, by Wheels for Wellbeing/TfL

One of a slew of documents published by the DfT today is Gear Change One Year On.

Gear Change One Year On: Foreword

Inevitably the Foreword by Boris Johnson includes some boasting, but it also contains a useful reaffirmation of the government's commitment to the Gear Change policies.

Johnson says that rather than allowing traffic in urban areas to keep expanding, we need to make better use of the roads we've already got, by encouraging cycles and buses that take up less space per passenger.

"I know many people think that cycling and walking schemes simply increase car traffic on other roads. But there is now increasing evidence that they do not. We sometimes think of traffic as like water: if you block a stream in one place, it will find the next easiest way. Of course some journeys by car are essential, but traffic is not a force of nature. It is a product of people's choices. If you make it easier and safer to walk and cycle, more people choose to walk and cycle instead of driving, and the traffic falls overall."
Boris Johnson

These words are not original, but largely taken (presumably with permission, but without attribution) from Andrew Gilligan's Foreword to Human Streets, a report on cycling in London from 2016.

"Much of the opposition to cycle schemes is based on the belief that motor traffic is like rainwater and the roads are the drains for it. If you narrow the pipe, these people say, it will flood. If you block one route, they say, the same amount of traffic will simply flow down the next easiest route. But that seldom or never actually happens in practice. Because traffic isn't a force of nature. It's a product of human choices. Our surveys tell us that huge numbers of Londoners will choose to cycle if they feel safe doing so. If we open up that choice, even more people will take it."
Andrew Gilligan, Foreword to Human Streets

In Gear Change One Year On, Johnson goes on to say that he supports councils of all parties which are trying to promote cycling and bus use. Schemes must be in place long enough for their benefits and disbenefits to be properly evidenced. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods cause local businesses to thrive, and result in better air quality. Some traffic evaporates.

Gear Change One Year On: Introduction

The Introduction sets out the problem: between 2010 and 2019, traffic in urban areas grew by 25%, and on side streets it increased by 33%. The causes are:

  Possible solutions include:

The fourth solution is to make better use of the roads we already have, by encouraging bikes and buses, which take up less space per passenger. Cycling and walking schemes encourage active travel, and gradually traffic falls.

Gear Change One Year On: A Year of Achievement

A whole section of the report is devoted to boasting. Hedgehog Cycling has already covered significant schemes and spending pledges over the year.

Gear Change One Year On: New and Continuing Commitments

This section says that spending on cycling and walking in England will now be £338 million instead of £257 million; and apparently there's another £100 million for London, making a total of £438 million.

The money is to be used to build cycle lanes, LTNs, and school streets.

Other actions noted here are:

Active Travel England

Active Travel England is to being work in the autumn.

"Active Travel England (ATE) will be a new commissioning body and inspectorate which will hold the cycling and walking budget. It will examine all applications for funding and refuse any that are not compliant with the new national LTN 1/20 standards. It will inspect finished schemes and ensure that local authorities have funding allocations reduced where schemes have not been completed as promised, or have not started or finished by the stipulated times. It will act as a statutory consultee on larger planning applications to ensure they provide properly for walking and cycling."
Page 23, Gear Change One Year On

Highway Code

There were 21,000 responses to the Highway Code consultation, and people largely agreed with the proposals to:

Old Railways

Highways England are to stop infilling or demolishing structures on old railways until there is time to review which lines could be converted to active travel use.

E-Cycle Support Programme

There's to be a programme of support for e-bikes starting in autumn this year.

Road Safety Strategic Framework

The government is starting work on an integrated road safety strategic framework, that will draw on the Safe Systems approach, and will consider how to improve road safety for vulnerable road users.

Pavement Parking

There's no result yet from the pavement parking consultation, but it will be published later this year.

Gear Change One Year On: LTNs

This section contains a defence of LTNs. It says data shows that within the LTNs there are significant reductions in traffic and increases in cycling and walking. Further, generally they do not simply displace traffic - rather, when schemes have been in place for longer there are reductions in traffic on most roads around the LTNs.

Specifically, in 12 new LTNs, traffic on 15 boundary roads rose, but on 35 it fell.

The longer a scheme is in place, the greater its effect. That is why schemes must be given time.

"Other claims sometimes made about LTNs are not true. Using years of data and more than 100,000 emergency callouts, academic research found that they do not increase emergency service response times - echoing statements made by the emergency services themselves about the post-pandemic LTN schemes. Indeed, they benefit public safety. New research show that the pandemic LTN schemes have halved road injuries in their areas, compared with no reductions over the same period in non-LTN areas."
Page 29, Gear Change One Year On

Gear Change One Year On: Public Opinion

Polls and surveys show that the cycling and walking measures are popular, by a majority of 2 to 1. Most people do not feel strongly about the schemes, and opposition diminishes in time.

One poll showed that people believed that there was more opposition than there really was.

Schemes should have majority support, but no scheme will ever have unanimous support, and councils should not expect or require this.

Reduction of Traffic

Support for reduction in traffic

79% of respondents to a recent government-commissioned survey supported a reduction in traffic in their areas

Reallocation of Road Space

Support for reallocation of road space

69% supported a reallocation of road space to walking and cycling.

Local LTNs

Support for local LTNs

61% supported their local LTN.

Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale

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Read more about Bike Rides in Harrogate and Nidderdale.


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