Yorkshire cycling website
15th July 2016
Chris Grayling was yesterday appointed Secretary of State for Transport, in the reshuffle by Theresa May, the newly appointed Prime Minister. Grayling replaces Patrick McLoughlin, with McLoughlin becoming party chairman.
The other ministers in the Department for Transport in David Cameron's administration were Robert Goodwill (Minister of State, with responsibility for cycling), Claire Perry (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State), and Andrew Jones (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, and MP for Harrogate). However, Claire Perry, who had responsibility for rail, resigned today over problems with Southern trains.
Mr Grayling has had a number of jobs in government, including Justice Secretary from 2012-2015, and Leader of the Commons most recently. He campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, so he is partly responsible for the appalling mess the country now finds itself in. He then became Theresa May's campaign manager in her bid for Conservative party leadership.
A brief internet search doesn't reveal any evidence that Mr Grayling is interested in cycling. As Justice Secretary, he announced in May 2014 that road traffic offences and penalties would be reviewed. This was seen as a positive step by cycling organisations, as people who cycle often perceive that they can be killed or injured on the road, and the driver responsible will not face any significant consequences; however, by December 2015, nothing had come of the proposed review. It lives on in that ethereal state, somewhere between not definitively scrapped, but not actually happening.
British Cycling welcomed the appointment of Mr Grayling (more in hope than expectation, presumably), and called for immediate action to meet the government's existing commitments. Campaigns manager Martin Key: 'There is a very real risk that the government's modest target to double the number of journeys cycled by 2020 will be missed. The latest transport statistics show there has been no significant increase in cycling journeys over the last year. A first step would be to publish the Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy [CWIS, published in draft on Easter Sunday] and begin the actions needed to meet the target.'
As Robert Goodwill remains in place, it seems likely that he will retain responsibility for cycling. Although he has provided insipid management of the cycling portfolio, he is not outright hostile to cycling, and rides a bike himself. In these dark times, we have to be grateful for small mercies. (Update: this is no longer correct, as Mr Goodwill becomes Immigration Minister).
It must have been difficult to produce a meaningful CWIS when Chancellor George Osborne wouldn't fund it.
Now the Chancellor is Philip Hammond. Will he be any better? The portents are not good. Hammond announced an end to an imaginary war on motorists in 2011.
In September 2011, he launched a consultation on increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph, saying, 'Cars are much safer, they have more sophisticated equipment now than they did 40 or so years ago. They are capable of driving safely at higher speeds. There are enormous economic benefits to be had by increasing the speed limit and shortening journey times.'
Many people who have to interact with traffic when cycling or walking would ask, 'have drivers become much safer in that 40 year period? Or are they distracted by all that sophisticated equipment, checking Facebook or staring at a SatNav instead of watching the road?' In any case, eventually someone saw sense, and realised that nobody really wants to be Minister for the Extra Deaths Caused by an Ill-Advised Increase in the Speed Limit. The plan was dropped.
All this is of marginal relevance to cycling, except that Mr Hammond seems to think that ever more vehicles tearing round the British Isles (or whichever parts of them still remain under the control of the Westminster government), at ever faster speeds, counts as Success, and The Future. A person who thinks that probably isn't interested in cycling. That is confirmed by a Julian Huppert interview with Camcycle, where he says, '[Philip Hammond's] instructions when he became transport secretary were to get rid of cycling as a DfT function; he saw it as unimportant and trivial. We fought back hard to stop that, but we weren't in time to save Cycling England.'
So far, so depressing. A bit of hope is needed. Even on the blackest of black nights, a distant star shines, or in this case, a STAF. On 5th July, the DfT launched a £60m fund for sustainable travel projects, called the Sustainable Travel Access Fund. Councils can bid for some of the money, provided they contribute 10% of the scheme costs.
The time for despair may be very soon, but it is Not Yet.
The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group held an enquiry into
government's Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy, with
campaign organisations, and cycling minister Robert Goodwill, giving
evidence. Read more about APPCG
enquiry into CWIS...
27th March 2016
In a bizarre move, the Department for Transport published its draft cycling and walking investment strategy today, Easter Sunday. One might speculate that the publication date was chosen for media managment reasons, to generate minimum adverse publicity. British Cycling and CTC have condemned the dismal funding committed to cycling and walking. Read about draft cycling and walking invetment strategy published...
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