Since the elections for the ‘Metro Mayor’ in 2017 and the setting up of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), Bristol Cycling has been working with our friends at Cycle Bath on a Cycling Manifesto for the region. We’ve been asking for the same level of commitment from Mayor Tim Bowles, and his Transport supremo, James White, as is being seen in other cities, notably London and now Manchester where Chris Boardman is the cycling champion.

Sadly there is little sign of any real vision or ambition. WECA transport policy seems to be simply about junction 18A of the M4, buses, and trains. There is no recognition that walking and cycling play any role in tackling congestion.

Adam Reynolds, chair of Cycle Bath, is making a joint statement to the WECA Overview and Scrutiny Committee tomorrow, Weds 21st March.

See the Cycle Bath post 21 March 2018 / West of England Combined Authority Overview and Scrutiny Committee | Cycle Bath

I am speaking on behalf of Cycle Bath and Bristol Cycling Campaign both of which actively campaign for better cycling infrastructure. As a software engineer and data scientist I have been able to leverage my skills to analyse the Census 2011 WU03EW “Location of usual residence and place of work by method of travel to work” data set. I can tell you that of the 153,623(125,908+27,715) Bristol and Bath car commuters, 18.9% [28,989 (24,396+4,593)] live within a 20 minute walk of work, 42.1% [64,678(56,277+8,401)] live within a 20 minute cycle of work, and 61.7% [94,800(83072+11728)] live within a 20 minute electric bike ride of work.

 

I have already had a meeting last year with Mayor Tim Bowles to emphasise these statistics, highlighting the work Transport For London are doing around Strategic Cycling Analysis (http://content.tfl.gov.uk/strategic-cycling-analysis.pdf) as well as presenting the www.pct.bike and www.cyipt.bike tools, both of which have been funded by the DfT.

 

Transport For London recently stated that cycle lanes move 5 times as many people per square metre as car lanes. A single bi-directional protected cycle lane is the equivalent of installing a 5 lane motorway through a city. The investment in gold standard cycle infrastructure in the City of London has resulted in the majority of traffic on the roads now being people cycling.

 

On top of this we have estimates that congestion is costing Bath and Bristol businesses £55 million per year and costing individuals residents upwards of £1,500 per year in time and costs. We’re talking congestion costs reaching almost £300 million per year across Bath and Bristol, and god knows what costs the NHS are occuring due to air pollution and obesity.

 

Yet WECA transport policy seems to be simply about junction 18A of the M4, buses, and trains. There is no recognition that walking and cycling play any role in tackling congestion. Unlike other regional mayors, there is no dedicated cycling commissioner. Funding for cycling has been bundled with walking, and combined, is only 5% of the budget, or a paltry £400m. The Greater Manchester Mayor has committed to invest £1.5 BILLION in cycling alone. If WECA did the same per head of population it would be £500M on cycling alone.

 

Cycling as a form of transport offers significant benefits to tackling congestion and improving public health. The Mayor can tackle congestion cheaply by simply identifying all Key Road Network routes where significant numbers are travelling to work by car that could travel to work by bicycle in under 20 minutes and prioritise the building of good seperate protected space for walking, cycling, and driving along these routes over the provision of on-street parking.

 

When will WECA get serious about tackling congestion and improving the health of the population? Where is WECA’s cycling vision? Where is our Cycling Commissioner? Where is our Chris Boardman? Where is the commitment from WECA to deliver healthy streets? Why does the mayor seem obsessed with cars, buses and trains, when 60% of workers live within an easy electric bike ride of work? And while we’re at it, where’s the identification of key cycle routes to schools with upwards of 30% of rush hour traffic being the school run? Why is WECA’s transport policies not answerable to Public Health? Why is there nobody from the NHS invited to be involved in defining transport policy?

 

We are almost one year into Mayor Tim Bowles term in office and cycling simply does not seem to register on his radar as a solution for tackling congestion and improving the health of the population. I can only compare his progress to that of other Mayors and currently it feels glacial and very timid when looking at what other Mayors are achieving.