Transport Secretary Grant Shapps U-Turns On “Biking Revolution” Urging Councils To Once more Prioritize Motorists

“Nobody needs to be unsure about our assist for motorists,” the U.Ok. Transport Secretary has advised English native authorities, a full reverse of his place given in entrance of TV cameras on Could 24.

In line with the letter dated October 16, Shapps has watered down earlier authorities recommendation to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists. The letter—addressed to “Native Transport Authority Leaders”—says councils should “stability the wants of cyclists and pedestrians with the wants of different highway customers, together with motorists and native companies.”

Councils could also be forgiven for being confused about this newest stance as a result of, again in Could, Shapps used the federal government’s each day coronavirus briefing to disclose that strolling and biking would turn into the norm for city journey, with motor automobiles pushed to the periphery.

He predicted that we might not “return to how issues have been” however “come out of this restoration stronger, by completely altering the best way we use transport.” 

Shapps confused again then that the federal government can be “dashing up the biking revolution, serving to people turn into fitter and more healthy. And decreasing air air pollution, which stays a hidden killer.” 

In March, Shapps wrote a foreword to a Division for Transport (DfT) plan to “decarbonize” transport saying that, sooner or later, “we are going to use our automobiles much less.” 

In July, the DfT explicitly mentioned the plan was to “reallocate highway area” away from motorists, and councils have been urged to be daring in reshaping roads.

The councils have been advised in Could that tens of millions of kilos can be “launched as quickly as attainable in order that work can start at tempo on closing roads to via site visitors, putting in segregated cycle lanes and widening pavements.”

The letter despatched to English native authorities on Could 27 continued “to obtain any cash underneath this or future tranches, you’ll need to point out us that you’ve got a swift and significant plan to reallocate highway area to cyclists and pedestrians, together with strategic corridors.” 

The letter advised native authorities that strolling and biking are actually “important” types of transport that may “assist us keep away from overcrowding on public transport techniques as we start to open up elements of our economic system.” 

Signed by Rupert Furness of the DfT’s Lively and Accessible Journey unit, the letter confused: “We’ve got a window of alternative to behave now to embed strolling and biking as a part of new long-term commuting habits and reap the related well being, air high quality and congestion advantages.” 

£250 million of “Emergency Lively Journey Funding” was introduced by the DfT in Could. 

The DfT advised councils to “start at tempo on closing roads to via site visitors, putting in segregated cycle lanes and widening [sidewalks].” 

Whereas welcoming the unfold of pop-up cycleways, Furness mentioned they may very well be “harder to implement shortly” so native authorities ought to prioritize “level closures.” That’s, “closing sure fundamental roads or parallel facet streets” to motor site visitors. 

Many of those closures, and related pop-up cycleways, have been thought-about to be non permanent however a survey for the native authorities revealed that the DfT would additionally take into account “everlasting segregated cycleways” and “new everlasting footways.” 

The DfT letter to council urged pace and ambition: “Something that doesn’t meaningfully alter the established order on the highway is not going to be funded,” said Furness.

These native authorities that acted swiftly and with goal may, continued the letter, count on to obtain additional funds “to put in additional, extra everlasting measures to cement biking and strolling habits.”

New regular

The brand new and startling emphasis on biking and strolling from the federal government got here from the very high.

Earlier than he grew to become Prime Minister Boris Johnson was an on a regular basis bicycle commuter and when he swept into energy he appointed journalist Andrew Gilligan as his transport advisor. Gilligan was biking commissioner when Johnson was Mayor of London, and it was Gilligan, not Johnson, that was most liable for pushing via London’s protected cycleway program.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps took his lead from Johnson and—earlier than the letter despatched to native authorities on October 16—had turn into a vocal champion of energetic transport.  

Lots of the pop-up cycleways and widened sidewalks have been put in utilizing COVID-specific emergency site visitors regulation orders launched by the federal government in June which required consultations to be undertaken after a trial interval slightly than asking for views beforehand. 

Nonetheless, Shapps has now backtracked on the emergency powers he signed off.

“We aren’t ready to tolerate unexpectedly launched schemes, which can create sweeping modifications to communities, with out session,” he says written within the newest letter.

As an alternative of introducing emergency site visitors regulation orders (ETROs) as per June, councils should now use commonplace site visitors regulation orders as a result of native authorities should have “real plans” to “seek the advice of their native communities.”

Within the authorities’s Statutory Instrument No. 51 which got here into power on the finish of Could, the ETROs have been attributable to stay in power till April 2021. It now seems that Shapps is advising native authorities that this dictat has been rescinded.

“The amendments … are meant to hurry up the time it takes for site visitors authorities to make the site visitors orders which are wanted to place in place measures to take care of the consequences of coronavirus, together with the necessity to encourage social distancing and promote energetic journey, for instance, strolling and biking,” said the Statutory Instrument.

Utilizing these new powers native authorities may set up highway schemes with out going via an preliminary session section.

“The essential take a look at,” says Shapps within the new letter, is “does it ship for the neighborhood it serves, and has it been achieved with their session.”

Reverse ferret

In line with the letter which I’ve obtained, Shapps states that the “advantages to biking and strolling” should not “outweigh the dis-benefits for different highway customers.”

It is a reversal of his earlier place.

Funding for biking and strolling schemes going ahead would solely go to these councils that may make “optimistic modifications to our roads, to guarantee that everybody has the area and skill to maneuver simply and directly, it doesn’t matter what their transport sort.”

Within the October 16 letter Shapps states: “We all know that almost all of individuals assist reallocation of highway area for biking and strolling of their native space.”

Nonetheless, he provides there have been many badly designed schemes and a “notable variety of councils used their funding poorly and have been merely out of step with their native communities.”

In line with Shapps there have been “far too many situations the place non permanent cycle lanes have been unused attributable to their location and design, whereas their creation left motor site visitors backed up alongside them; of huge pavements inflicting pointless congestion on the town centres; and different points that many have, rightly, reacted angrily too.” [sic]

Some schemes now been “scaled again and revised,” he added.

Golden age for biking

Again in Could, Boris Johnson promised the close to future “needs to be a brand new golden age for biking.” He made this remark in parliament throughout Prime Minister’s query time. 

Up to date on October 18 with textual content from letter Grant Shapps despatched to Native Authority Transport Leaders on October 16.

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