The Alternative Department for Transport
Re: Government using cycle training as an excuse to sideline cycling
Dear TABS and other cycle training organisations,
Are you annoyed that the politicians use you to suppress cycling? This probably comes as no surprise, political figures spouting nonsense is nothing new, after all!
Personally, I would be very annoyed if my work was being misrepresented, and used as an excuse to ignore real cycling provision – and unfortunately that’s exactly what’s happening with you.
Time after time, we see those in power refuse to support proper cycling infrastructure – good quality cycling infrastructure, enabling cycling for all, regardless of ability, as can be found in the Netherlands – and one of the frequent excuses given is that cycle training is offered instead.
What they mean by this is that the government throws some money at the cycle training industry. I know it’s not much money in the grand scheme of things, not enough even to teach every child the basics, and yet some of those in power then consider it “job done” as far as cycling is concerned.
Here’s an MSP in Glasgow refusing to support space for cycling, using training as an excuse.
Doesn’t that make your blood boil? Here you are, trying to do some good, and these politicians are using that as a reason to wash their hands of responsibility!
Here’s another politician, in London, cherry-picking a very rare situation as part of an ongoing campaign against the type of infrastructure that’s proven to be safe for everybody.
Central government frequently trumpets the number of children who have received Bikeability training as if this is a goal in itself, ignoring the fact that very few children actually then put these skills to use by cycling for transport.
Surely this must bother you? I can see you being wary of biting the hand that feeds you – the (other) Department for Transport’s logo is on your website, I guess you must receive funds from them – but isn’t it time to issue a statement which will prevent the politicians’ divide-and-rule, infra-versus-training debate once and for all? I’m often told that training is not in opposition to infrastructure, and this is a good chance to prove it.
As an industry, you surely support the principle of investment in high-quality cycle infrastructure. TABS’ website states that their ultimate aim is “more people taking trips by bike more often and more safely” (and some of your most prominent people are in favour of cycleways).
As we all know, “more people taking trips by bike more often and more safely” will only happen when people feel safe and comfortable travelling by bike – which inevitably means not having to cycle amongst lots of motor vehicles.
Surely you’d much rather be teaching every child in the country the rules of the road on safe infrastructure? Perhaps, with your help, one day the UK will be a country where eight years old is considered late for independent cycling!
I don’t expect you to become another full-time campaign organisation, but silence on this issue is tacit agreement with those who abuse your work. It would help everybody if campaigners had something to show to the politicans to say “look, cycle trainers say you’re wrong too. Cycling needs standards and investment.”
So I’m asking you to issue a press release, or add a page to your website, to make clear that training isn’t an alternative to proper infrastructure, but is instead an adjunct to it. Let the politicians know that throwing a few quid at Bikeability isn’t enough to create mass cycling in the UK, and that they can’t continue to design roads solely for motor vehicles any more.
All the best,