Two Wheels, December 5, 2014

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Announcements of more funding for cycling are coming up nearly as frequently as complaints about cyclists jumping red lights at the moment.

The latest one was last Tuesday, when the Deputy Prime Minister announced that £214 million would be spent to make cycling safer and encourage more people to take to two wheels.

I agree with Nick, so I’ll quote him. “I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality. The rewards could be massive. Billions of pounds in savings for the NHS, less pollution and congestion, and a happier and safer population. In government, we’re putting the money down: now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line”.

Fine words, but is it really enough? The Netherlands and Denmark have been spending twice that every year for decades. £214 million a year may seem a lot of money, but when compared to how much is spent on railways or motorways it’s peanuts.

The money will be split roughly equally between eight ‘Cycling Ambition Cities’ (no, I’d never heard about them either!) and the Highways Agency.

One of those ‘Cycling Ambition Cities’ is Norwich. If that money is to be shared equally Norwich could get about £13million. Norwich’s population is about 215 000 so that’s about £60 a head - serious money if spent wisely.

Very little has been spent on cycling in West Norfolk in the last decade and once again it looks as if we’re going to be the poor relation of Norwich, despite having just as many people cycling.

Money’s not the whole story though. Norfolk County Council has long had a policy of increasing traffic capacity for motor vehicles at junctions when work is done on them.

This is lunacy at a time when we’re trying to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and get people to be more active. It just results in rubbish like the one-way, incomplete cycleway round the Hospital roundabout in Lynn.

It may tick the ‘provide for cycling’ box but it’s far safer to just stay on the road. When the Dutch started to build their enviable cycle network, the space was taken from the carriageway, not the footway.

Cycles take up far less space then cars so if improvements to the cycle network get more people on their bikes, less space for motor vehicles is needed.

Cyclists in West Norfolk will be watching what happens in Norwich very carefully over the next few months.