Lapping up the crumbs again

It’s been a while since I had a go at the CTC on here. I was hoping that they were turning themselves around, after taking on the national Space for Cycling campaign, the headline of which is protected cycleways along main roads.

Unfortunately it seems that the CTC is like a big old container ship – it takes quite some time to turn it around. It started to turn – slightly – about a year ago, but since then I wonder if there’s been fighting at the helm or something, because it seems to have gotten stuck part-way. As far as I can see it’s just been sat there for the last six months, seemingly doing nothing much.

So I was saddened to see the CTC falling back into its old ways, cosying up to a cycling-hostile government by gratefully accepting yet another patronising pat on the head. This time, the crumb is a £1 million fee given to the CTC, who are going to spend it trying to convince people to oil their old bike, as if that’s going to make the slightest difference to the cycling rates.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the CTC was doing this off their own initiative. I wouldn’t get excited about it, but nor would I care so much. It would be another pointless exercise in futility. Meh.

But the involvement of the DfT – the actual British Government Department for Transport – stinks. The DfT shouldn’t be involved with frilly stuff like this, it should be about big infrastructure, major policy, long-term investments – and with every other form of transport, they are. They’re planning a railway so expensive that it won’t even be finished until half of my readers are dead.

But what do they do for cycling?

“Events in towns and cities, delivered in conjunction with bike re-cycle centres to present members of the public with an opportunity to:

  • Fix a cycle so it can start to be used and learn how to maintain it
  • Trade a cycle for one better suited to individual needs and donate surplus cycles
  • Learn where best to cycle in their local area and discover local cycling activity
  • Receive cycle training to increase confidence in cycling on the road”

Great. More “encouragement” – because that’s worked so well in the past, hasn’t it?

And the CTC legitimises this bullshit by putting their name to it, validating the DfT’s pathetic attempt to buy off the cycling lobby. Then again, that million quid must have been hard to resist, and Sustrans would have probably taken it if the CTC hadn’t, so you can’t really blame them I guess.

But I have doubts about any campaign organisation that accepts money from the very people their campaigning should be aimed at. It always leads to meekness, unwillingness to bite the hand that feeds it. Just look at how Sustrans changed from being a vocal campaign group into a compliant union of third-sector professionals addicted to government hand-outs.

The other annoying thing is, the DfT know that people don’t want to cycle on the roads as they are. They know that soft measures don’t work. They even admit as much in their puff-piece for this scheme:

“In 2013, 42 per cent of adults in Britain had access to a bicycle, yet 63 per cent said they had not ridden a bicycle in the past year. Despite this, 37 per cent of adults in Britain agree that many of the short journeys (less than 2 miles) that they currently make by car could just as easily be made by cycling.”

And what’s their solution? Maintenance classes and training. Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Survey after survey tells us that the main reason people don’t cycle is fear of motor traffic. All the statistics point to better infrastructure leading to increased ridership.

We don’t need more statistics and reports, we just need someone to roll them up and hit Robert Goodwill over the head with them.

And we need the CTC – and other campaign groups – to have the guts to say “no thanks, that’s just pointless busywork. Can we have decent minimum design standards and serious long-term investment instead please?”


Addendum: Somehow I missed this comment, from CTC chief Paul Tuohy, on the Road.CC article:

“The minister’s backing is a sign of the level of importance that the Department for Transport is placing on getting people back into the saddle, for which we are enormously grateful.”

On the first point I agree – the minister’s backing is a sign of the level of importance the DfT places on cycling – unfortunately Tuohy doesn’t seem to realise that the level of importance is near zero.

Secondly, “we” (I assume that’s just the CTC, he’s not speaking for all of us is he?) are “enormously grateful” for this piddling little insult/£1m sweetener. I can hear the slurping sound from here – is that chocolate on your face, Paul?


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11 responses to “Lapping up the crumbs again

  1. Could have used the million to develop proper standards.

  2. gar

    I always enjoy your post. with regard to CTC your most relevant remark is
    “Whoop de fucking do”.

    I’ll say one more thing: their so called one of their best commercial sales, (its not a charity) is their insurance policy. Covers you for millions….. for an introduction to a solicitor, who then tells you what its going to cost,

    “What dya think we are?”

    Says the solicitor CTC enthusiast.

    “whoop de fucking do!”

    AW! ok I’ll say one more thing; the business is one of the worst offenders in promoting cycling accidents in the UK. Use the roads and how! Make the cars stop! and how! Dont use the side-walk-ways, and how not! Call a drop bar bike a Tourer. and how not!
    The word “Tour” translated from French means “Race”.
    (and how in the UK!)

  3. KristianCyc

    Hello Alternative DfT,

    As you know I’m a big fan of your blog. As one of the people helping steer CTC in the right direction though I’d like to add a few things which I am sad to see overlooked:

    There is nothing inherently wrong with projects to get people on bikes. This is because all the people campainging for Dutch quality infrastructure in the UK are people on bikes. Campaigners are a percentage of people on bikes, so the more people on bikes, the more campaigners you can get.

    CTC does not campaign for projects it can then apply for. The CTC has two main campaigning strands, space4cycling and road justice. Projects help strengthen that campaigning, they do not corrupt it.

    CTC was instrumental in having a long term funding strategy for cycling made part of the Infrastructure Act. Policy leaders in cycling including embassy members have often lamented the difficulty caused to local authorities who want to fund cycling infrastructure of piecemeal funding with no continuity. Good articles should highlight the positive achievements of the CTC, as well as criticising the negatives.

    Also this last achievement was brought about by working constructively with cycling’s allies within the government, including Robert Goodwill and Julian Huppert. It wasn’t achieved by bashing Robert Goodwill around the head. Do you really feel that an outright aggressive approach to campaigning is always best and is that your message to campaigners? From my experience to date as a campaigner I’ve come to conclude that effective campaigners know when to attack, and when to support. I believe that the best campaigners spend more time supporting than attacking.

    Your criticisms of the CTC are part of the reason I am now working with the CTC to provide direction, so I don’t in any way question your right to attack or suggest it hasn’t had some impact. However, I would ask that you pause to ask if attacking the CTC is the right approach at present. I think you’re going to see some really great stuff coming from the CTC in the future and like-minded people within the org will need positive support and recognition for that, which I hope you can help with.


    • Hi Kristian,

      Thanks for your comment, I do welcome other viewpoints on here.

      As I said in the blog post, it’s not so much the activity itself which is disappointing – if CTC went out and did this off their own initiative, I wouldn’t care. It’s the DfT working on this kind of campaign which I find distasteful. It just smacks of tokenism, a little snack for us to chew on while they sit at the banquet table with HS2 and the roads lobby. I mean, read this: and then this: How do they compare?

      Of course, the CTC isn’t all bad, there are good people doing good things – the CDF, for example, and CTC’s local reps do good work on local issues. But it’s the main national campaign that I focus on, as that’s the one talking to government and getting the headlines. I’m glad the CTC is evolving, and I’m glad that people such as yourself are working with it to enable that change. But it seems to be happening so slowly – and in some cases, reluctantly – that I sometimes wonder if I’m imagining it. For example, why are CTC still using a photo of a painted cycle lane to illustrate “Space for Cycling”?

      Ultimately, when the CTC gets involved in schemes like this, I do think it harms the campaigning. It sends a message to government that we think this sort of thing works, and it diverts time and attention away from the real issues.

      When something great comes from the CTC – such as formally retracting their support for the Hierarchy of Provision, and adopting a proper system of limits and requirements such as the LCC has – then I’ll sing their praises on here, I promise.


  4. T.Foxglove

    “I think you’re going to see some really great stuff coming from the CTC in the future”

    Jam tomorrow.

  5. Ollyver

    “all the people campainging for Dutch quality infrastructure in the UK are people on bikes.”

    Not true – I gave up cycling in London because it was, in short, unpleasant. Blogs like this one have persuaded me to badger my local council, fill in consultations, and try to convince all my (non-cycling) friends that it would be to their benefit to do the same. I have since started to occasionally get on a bike – but it’s not lack of maintenance which stops me doing it more often, it’s the very conditions we’re campaigning against.

    So keep going – not-yet-cyclists are also behind you. But getting us on bikes is not a necessary first step!

  6. MysteryMachine

    Sometimes it’s not even a lack of money. Andrew Gillingan has today again reported an underspend of the TfL budget, which he freely admits is ’embarassing’. The problem in London is that a large number of local councils, who have control over roads that are needed to make up a network, just won’t cooperate. Either they are afraid of the fuss that motorists will make when they aren’t allowed to leave their private property on (scarce) public highway space, or, in the case of boroughs like Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, they just hate cyclists, and will do anything to sabotage the realignment of roadspace to safely accomodate vulnerable road users.

    • Stewart

      I’m not going to defend any borough’s lack of enthusiasm for applying for TfL funds for improving cycling but often there are reasons for it. I know that budget cuts have meant my local London borough have had to make all but 2 of their highway planning officers redundant. These 2 now have to do all highways planning, for the entire borough. They haven’t even got the capacity to prepare the applications for TfL funding, let alone redesign the streets and junctions that so badly need it. The local branch of LCC are hoping that we may be partner with an outside consultancy firm to take on more of the admin of getting TfL funds, but I really don’t know whether that will turn out to be practical.

      It’s a rather sorry and Kafkaesque state of affairs.

  7. Jon

    Stockholm Syndrome

  8. From the Archives: 2005

    Reading the tweets relating to this blog a few days ago reminded me of disputes from the recent past. The same issues attracted our attention then as now: infrastructure and encouragement, cycleways and mixing it with motors.

    The following is a series of email discussions (no twitter then) edited for length between myself and a ‘senior LCC member’ (then and now) here called SLCCM. The discussion was sparked when SLCCM and others criticized newspaper columnist Polly Toynbee for alleged negativism about cycling (ie pointing out the danger and lack of attraction of road cycling) and proposing the idea of a segregated cycleways including for the Olympics. The bits by me (PG) are from an email responding to the criticism of Toynbee. SLCCM’s responses to me are as in his reply email interweaved with my original comments.

    Two other people get a mention: senior LCC member 2: SLCCM2; & senior CTC member: SCTCM

    SLCCM: I still have no idea what the hell you were on about. I
    can’t recall you articulating any point clearly other than that you want long-distance segregated cycle tracks, for no clear reason whatsoever other than a jumble of confused and false prejudices.

    PG: SLCCM says [about newspaper columnists] quite a lot which I won’t repeat here. … None of us has all the answers.

    SLCCM: And some have considerably more than others. It doesn’t matter whether anyone has them all. Some people are simply better informed.

    PG: Which is why I argue that we shouldn’t angrily dismiss anyone who writes newspaper articles which are attempts to interpret their own experiences and to push forward cycling. By all means blow your top over newspaper articles that attack cycling, but not ones like these.

    SLCCM:_It_is_not_specifically_about_cycling_that_these_articles_are_so_poor_. How do you know that these people (want to) push forward cycling?

    PG: Even if you think they are purveying ‘false’ views, does it really matter if they are promoting cycling and expressing what they see as obstacles?

    SLCCM: Yes, _of_course_.

    PG: I see no way in which any of their views will affect other people in one jot … I have no worries that people will come to think that cycling is not safe (because they already do [think that it is unsafe]).

    SLCCM: I have no idea whether they will influence people negatively. That wasn’t my point at all. The point was that they write nonsense. Why should I want them to write nonsense? You can promote cycling a lot better if you write non-nonsense,which lots of people do, too. Cycling isn’t nonsense, so why should writing nonsense promote it?

    PG: My view is that, instead of condemning them we should be approaching them to join a pro-cycling media group to promote cycling … Instead we dismiss Polly Toynbee’s sensible proposal for a cycleway from central London to the Olympic site as ‘sad’ (SLCCM2). Sad, yes, but in your response to her, not in her initiative.

    SLCCM: Do your research first before you talk uninformed bollocks. Why do you assume that you have any idea what you’re talking about? Once again you’re badly briefed, Paul. In our response to the Olympics we stressed that we wanted a high profile for cycling to access the Olympic sites, and we’ll keep pushing that. Needless to say, the desired high volume of Olympic visitors riding bikes rule out cycle tracks immediately (among many other reasons).

    PG: Similarly sad when SCTCM of the CTC [in an email circulated on a LCC list] recalled how he had ‘patiently explained’ to a writer on the [Daily] Express [regarding a fatality on Blackfriars Bridge] why segregated tracks were ‘seldom the answer in the UK context’.

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