Johnson re-announces tiny cycling fund
12th February 2020
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:
- take the annual budget, multiply it by five, and present it as a 5-year figure. That way you get to announce a much bigger number
- take the cycling budget and the buses budget, and present them both together without explaining the component parts. That way you get to announce a much bigger number
- take the length of segregated cycleway you think you can build in England each year (50 miles), multiply it by five, and present it as 250 miles over 5 years
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:
|Spend £ per person per year||Miles of cycleway||Comparison £ Cons vs Lab|
||2.36% of Labour spend
||42x Conservative spend
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.