Dear Mr Harradine
Thank you for your email with attachments.
I have reproduced your letter below for ease of reference and have interspersed my own thoughts in return.
Planning Strategy Team
London Borough of Bromley
29 July 2015
Dear Cllr Smith
Please find below the response from Bromley Cyclists to the recent ‘Cycling Strategy’ released for consultation.
Whilst the strategy is a welcome step, we believe that it is weak; it does not give us confidence that there is the enthusiasm, or leadership within the Borough Council required to meet the cycling demands of Bromley’s residents or Mayor Johnson’s cycling vision.
The de facto position of claiming lack of funds relating to every single project is neither acceptable nor sustainable and as a minimum demonstrates poor planning and weak financial management; cycling offers the lowest cost option for reducing congestion, improving air quality and tackling obesity, particularly in young people. We suggest that it is not unreasonable to predict that the failure by holders of public office to address these major issues in a cost effective and timely fashion is likely in future be viewed as a serious disregard for the health and well-being of residents of our borough.
I am afraid that I fundamentally disagree with your analysis. Financial resource or lack thereof self evidently drives everything else before it.
You can ‘plan’ anything you want, paying for it is the difficult part. Increasingly so, even just to fill in potholes.
With the Mayors LIPs budget already constrained and with a fear it will shrink significantly further still over coming months, optional spending on non statutory duties will, however unfortunately, remain strictly controlled and may even reduce by necessity.
Regarding obesity, any form of exercise, participation in sport or even just walking can play as equally an important role as cycling in some cases at zero cost to the users themselves or society as a whole.
I attach a recent news article regarding air quality in London for your records.
Areas for Improvement:
- We don’t really understand the rationale of the strategy which seems too often to focus on minutiae and ignore the basis of strategic thinking which is to set out a landscape so that the sort of detailed plans mentioned in the strategy can be implemented successfully and without undue hindrance. This will include the plan to acquire the funds to finance what is needed.
- The document lacks a clear strategy statement. This should include how the borough intends to identify and lower the barriers to cycling and increase people’s knowledge of cycling’s health and environmental benefits. The statement should set out the vision of the sort of cycling the borough wants for its residents and the collective and individual benefits that will accrue.
- The strategy needs to be aligned to the wider strategies of the Borough i.e. the current Unitary Development Plan, the Environment Portfolio Plan and the ‘Better Environment, Better Health’ document.
- The ‘Context and Rational’ provides a very negative view of cycling in the Borough and implies that there are insurmountable challenges to increasing cycling. These challenges need to be treated as opportunities for the council to promote the benefits of cycling across all age groups, and abilities.
- It seems clear the borough requires additional cycling and financial expertise to implement the components of the strategy. The need for this expertise is derived from reading the strategic components which present a number of unanswered questions; a perception of uncertainty regarding policy change and the need to secure funding for the majority of the components of the strategy.
- The lack of expertise should be addressed through the establishment of a Cycling Champion, someone who can work across the Borough with your policy departments to champion cycling and ensure your cycling strategy aligns with your health, education, highways and environmental plans and objectives. This cycling champion would be a member of the executive committee or report directly to it.
Implementation of the Strategy
- To implement the strategy we recommend that the Borough expand the scope of the proposed Cycle Forum to become a cycling strategy panel lead by the Cycling Champion. It should encompass wider expertise from schools, TfL, road design experts, Police, health and finance experts, South East Railways and Thameslink and possibly other London Boroughs which have successfully increased their cycling levels.
- The London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) should be brought into the heart of planning policy, and should be a constant reference point for all borough planning
- The borough should promote community activities such as those organised by Bromley Cyclists, the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign in Bromley.
Additional Key Performance Indicators
We believe that Bromley should also be measuring the following as part of their KPIs:
- We suggest that the council should measure the engagement that the population has with cycling as a KPI.
- Percentage of school pupils cycling to school
- Increase in commuting by bicycle to new Cycling Hubs
- Increased promotion of the wider health and environmental benefits
- Development and usage of Quietways.
We further believe that the installation of Cycle Parking should not be included as a KPI;the installation of bike racks whilst useful should not be confused with the proper, genuine measures needed to encourage cycling and is simply used by the council to prove that they are doing something when the truth is they are not. It’s moving bicycles that the council needs to apply itself to, not stationary ones!!
We suggest the following should also be included as future objectives:
- Identification of the next set of cycling hubs
- Upgrade Borough cycling network signage to include time and distance information and clear directions taking account of the sort of information needed on cycling signage is different to that used by motorists.
At the moment there seems to be several other London boroughs preparing Cycling Strategies and we have read these and found that generally they are much more ambitious and focussed than the Bromley document. We have included the Brent Cycling Strategy as an example of the sort of strategic thinking that we feel Bromley should be able to produce.
Your thoughts and comments are noted.
I can only really repeat what we have previously discussed ourselves on several occasions. Namely that where the Council does already and will continue wherever it can to assist cyclists/cycling across the Borough, subject to shrinking resources.
Whilst we are more than happy to encourage young people to cycle (and would point to the Borough’s prominent investment in cycling proficiency), work with you to create cycling hubs and advocate the benefits of cycling for those who wish to do so, and likewise support Quietways (subject to design and location) all require scant funding which may as I’ve mentioned previously decrease substantially over coming years and it would be foolish of any Politician in the extreme in my opinion to raise false expectations and create extra work for a shrinking Council workforce by setting non statutory and potentially unachievable KSI’s against such a backdrop.
The Transport remit in Bromley, very much encompassing Cycling, falls within the Environmental Services brief on Bromley Council.
We have in myself, a ‘Portfolio Holder’, otherwise titled ‘Executive Councillor’, who unsurprisingly sits on the Executive.
Whilst respectful of the opinion of those who hold different views on the subject, I simply do not see anything extra can be added by adopting another title in ‘Champion’.
Were I to do so, given we regard and respect the rights of all road users equally, I would need to extend it to include Pedestrians, Motor Cyclists, Car drivers, bus passengers, taxi drivers et al which would clearly be ludicrous.
I am sorry to say that I disagree concerning the value of ‘timing’ on road signs. I appreciate it is current thinking and fashionably vogue to think in such terms elsewhere, but given that even cyclists travel at different speeds, in addition to the capital cost and maintenance such street signs bring in their wake, they simply don’t make sense, not least as pedestrians and car drivers will quite reasonably seek to elicit logical information from them when passing too.
Coordinator – Bromley Cyclists