It has not been a good start to 2005 for cycling, with decisions (or sometimes a lack of them) that have failed to promote cycling. For example:
Part of the reason for these decisions is that the DfT has received less money from the Treasury and ministers seem to be frightened of the response of the tabloids if they set up a new quango for cycling in an election year.
However, money has not been lacking for everything associated with cycling. The DfT's Road Safety Division has launched a new TV 'filler' campaign on cycle helmets and has spent valuable money to produce ads that are factually incorrect and most likely to scare people from cycling. Indeed, Road Safety is committing even more funds to a new website for children, whose focus is the dangers of cycling together with 'scary' stories of what can go wrong if its ill-considered messages are not heeded.
Whilst the Government cut back funding to the country's 15 million 'ordinary' cyclists, it gave £21m for the benefit of just 44 riders in the next Olympics. In practice, with its multi-billion pound budget, the DfT could easily find the level of funding sought for cycling. In recent years it has not spent its full settlement and there are always residual monies of tens of millions of pounds available.
The real problem is political will. Philip Darnton, NCSB chair, said he saw "no overall strategic commitment to cycling at ministerial level". For whilst cycling minister Charlotte Atkins seems genuinely concerned about the present crisis, her fellow ministers are ill-disposed towards cycling and have no fear of the cycling lobby.
Local Development Framework by Tim Birkinshaw
Local Development Frameworks (LDF) will replace Local Plans from 2007 and the LDF for Charnwood is now being prepared. This will consist of a main planning framework and a number of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD), which expand upon specific areas. A number of these are out for consultation and can be found at http://www.charnwood.gov.uk/environment/25914.html (and possibly in local libraries).
The emphasis is largely on ‘sustainability’ (albeit ill-defined to include economic growth) and should be good news for cyclists (and pedestrians).
Cut-price Cycling England established(based on an article in CCN News)
The Government has at last announced the setting up of Cycling England as a replacement for the National Cycling Strategy Board. Members of the new body are:
However, the new body is to have a minimal budget of only £5m per year. The NCSB had asked for £70m for its successor, the amount thought necessary to begin to make progress on achieving cycling growth.
The Department for Transport has also released promised funding to consolidate the National Standard for Cycle Training. CTC is to provide a help desk service and database and will coordinate increasing the number of accredited cycle trainers throughout the UK.
The BMA and Compulsory Helmets(based on an article in CCN News)
In February, the British Medical Association's Board of Science and Education agreed to consider further, at its meeting in April, correspondence received about the BMA's U-turn to press for mandatory helmets for adult and child cyclists. The subject will also come before the BMA's Annual Representative Meeting at the end of June.
Lobbyists in favour of helmet compulsion are mounting a campaign to get doctors to write in to the BMA to express their support for the new policy. It would appear that a key lobbyist is the doctor who wrote the report that pre-empted the U-turn. If this is the case, it shows clearly that the report cannot be considered an impartial review of the evidence.
It is essential to balance the pressure for compulsion and to press for an open review of all the evidence on cycle helmets. Please therefore write to the BMA and canvas the support of doctors in your area to do likewise. Key points are:
Note: Pro-compulsion lobbyists are claiming that opposition from cycling groups is on the basis of 'commercial interest'. CCN groups may care to explain that they are voluntary organisations without commercial connections. Write to: Professor Sir David Carter, Chair BMA Board of Education and Science, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP.BMA Review: http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/cyclehelmetslegis
Contributory Negligence(based on an article in CCN News)
In recent months there have been worrying signs of an increase in attempts by insurance companies to reduce the amount paid to cyclists injured in crashes on the grounds of contributory negligence.
Contributory negligence arises when some action (or inaction) on the part of the injured party led to the crash taking place when otherwise it might not, or increased the severity of injuries received. The non-wearing of a cycle helmet has been used as grounds for contributory negligence by insurance companies many times in the past. Although this argument has never been upheld when a claim has proceeded to court, insurers know that many people will not contest their defence, saving their companies thousands of pounds.
An ongoing case in Cheltenham highlights the injustice. Mr Green was killed in a crash with a car and died of head injuries. The motorist was found solely at fault, for driving without due care and attention. He was fined £200. Subsequently the driver's insurers, Direct Line, wrote to Mr Green's widow saying that because her husband was not wearing a helmet, they would reduce her compensation by 15 to 20 per cent. Although her husband was cycling lawfully and not at fault, she would, in effect, be fined in excess of £10,000.
Previously CTC has led pressure on insurance companies to think again about such treatment. If you think this incident unjust, and especially if you have insurance with Direct Line, please write to Direct Line and your MP in support of Mrs Green.
In January the Institute of Physics launched Einstein Year. It is 100 years since the publication of Einstein's work on special relativity, the inspiration for which came to him whilst out cycling.
Picnic in the Park
As usual, the Campaign will be having a stall. Offers of help in advance would be very welcome. Alternatively just turn up on the day.