Johnson re-announces tiny cycling fund

12th February 2020

Birmingham Blue Cycle Route
Birmingham Blue Cycle Route

Boris Johnson yesterday re-announced the tiny cycling fund already mentioned in the Conservative manifesto. It amounts to a miserly £1.18 per person per year, down from the current £7. It compares with spending of £35-50 pledged by the other main parties.

Johnson wasn't open and honest about the fact that it was the same 5-year £350 million fund, re-announced. He described it in a different way, and bundled it up with buses, to create a bigger headline number (which the BBC duly printed). Only when Ruth Cadbury asked the final question of the debate did it become clear that Johnson was presenting the same £1.18 as before. (*It now appears that Johnson got it wrong, see update below).

Seeing through the misleading propaganda

It would be impossible to call out all the dishonest propaganda spewed out by Johnson's government, because the volume is just too great. In this case, the thinking appears to be:

Johnson hopes that most people won't be paying attention and will just see a big number in a headline. The lesson he has taken from the General Election is that he can lie incessantly, and there are no consequences. Those of us who are paying attention are appalled by his dishonesty.

In the long term, constantly misleading people with propaganda and outright lies does immense damage to our democracy and system of government.

A tiny fraction of what's needed

Johnson talked about mini-Hollands and segregated cycle routes. These are the right measures, but with pitiful levels of funding. The money doesn't even begin to reach the levels needed to make a difference people in England will notice.

The other main parties all pledged so much more for cycling - the Lib Dems £35 per person per year, the Greens £42, and Labour 5,000km of protected cycleways and £50 per person per year. Compare the Conservatives with Labour:

Cycle spending Conservatives vs Labour

Spend £ per person per year Miles of cycleway Comparison £ Cons vs Lab
Conservatives £1.18
2.36% of Labour spend
Labour £50
42x Conservative spend

Update 13th February 2020

It seems that Boris Johnson botched his announcement of the money for cycling, in what a source said was 'a car crash of an announcement.'

Helen Pidd's article in the Guardian says the government has earmarked £1 billion for cycling and walking routes over 5 years, not £350 million.

The article also notes that £1 billion over 5 years is 20% of what is needed to achieve the government's own ambition to double cycle rates from 2% to 4% of trips. It would need at least £5 billion.

Sustrans puts the cost of meeting the government's own ambitions at £6-8 billion.