Tackling Bike Theft

The rising popularity of cycling across the UK has been accompanied by rising bike theft. 

It is the highest reported crime by volume in Cambridge, with nearly two percent of residents reporting a bike stolen in 2020 and many more likely going unreported.  And yet, the police have openly admitted that they do not consider bike theft a ‘high harm’ crime that they should devote significant resources to. 

Many of the bike thefts in Cambridge are also reported on social media, in particular through Facebook groups. This has allowed the public to work together to recover stolen bikes, as well as provided unprecedented insights into the people stealing bikes, and the police response.

If the UK wants to promote active travel, people must feel confident that their bikes are safe.

The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner in Cambridgeshire, Darryl Preston, made bike theft a theme of his election campaign, and helped by setting up a series of meetings with the Superintendent responsible for policing Cambridge and local community activists to discuss bike theft, the evidence available when the community gets together, and how to tackle the problem more effectively. 

Here are some thoughts on what the problems are around bike theft, and how these could be tackled.

What are the problems? 

Police communication: The police offer two main modes of contact – the 999 service for emergencies and the 101 service for all other inquiries. Most victims of bike theft call 101. The police response to 101 is often delayed or non-existent, leaving victims uncertain of an investigation’s status (or even if there is one). Many lose confidence in the police and take on the risk of recovering their bikes themselves with a GPS tracker or Apple Air tag. To adequately combat bike theft, the police must improve their channels of communication so that victims do not feel that their cases disappear into a black hole.

Slow investigations and short sentences: There is an unacceptable disconnect between the public and criminal justice system about the evidentiary standard for proving bike theft. Even with overwhelming evidence of bike theft, such as witness statements and videos of stolen bikes being recovered, it can still take months or years before a suspect ends up in court while the police ‘gather evidence’. Offences are often captured on CCTV cameras, but it is absurdly difficult to collect evidence from them. Members of the public cannot review the tapes in most cases due to data protection laws, and police won’t review footage unless the victim can pinpoint the time of theft to within a short period of time. When bike thefts are successfully prosecuted, the trivial sentences do little to rehabilitate the criminal or deter others from future offences, with offenders thrown straight back into the lifestyle they left before prosecution.

Dearth of safe bike parking: Unchecked bike theft is facilitated by inadequate infrastructure for people to store and lock their bikes safely. As one example, the Cyclepoint facility in Cambridge Station has fallen woefully short of its promise to safely house 3,000 bikes. Despite its £2.5 million price tag, the ongoing management of the facility by the train operators has been shambolic. Cyclepoint stands can be easily unbolted with a spanner, and there is constant evidence of bike theft (broken locks, single wheels, deconstructed bike stands). CCTV footage either does not work or cannot be obtained by the police, stymieing dozens of investigations, many involving high value bikes. While there are plans to improve the Cyclepoint, the situation has been nothing short of disgraceful.

Broken Bike Stand at Cambridge Cyclepoint

E.g. A reported response to a bike theft under a CCTV camera at the Cyclepoint:

What are the solutions?

Police reform: In areas with high levels of bike theft, the police should treat it as a serious crime and devote an officer or team to the problem. They should engage with the public on social media to give confidence that investigations are happening, as well as to obtain more evidence (enlisting potential witnesses to upload photos/videos of the crime). If the police spot a bike thief on CCTV footage but cannot identify them, they should enlist the public’s assistance. And when there is compelling evidence of a stolen bike’s location (e.g. a tracker or online advertisement), the police should always follow-up with a victim within a reasonable timeframe and attempt to recover the stolen property. This will likely need new ‘near-realtime’ ways to interact with the police between 999 (its an emergency) and 101 (we might look at it in a few days time).

Eg. A reported response to a crime report where the victim knew the precise location of their stolen property:

Justice system Reform: There must be more transparency concerning the evidence and procedure needed to prosecute bike theft, as well as a fundamental review of how suspects transition from arrest to conviction in order to streamline the process. It goes without saying that suspects need to be treated fairly, but the current system is not fair to victims. When the effort required for the police and CPS to secure a bike theft conviction is out of all proportion to the likely sentence, is it any wonder that the authorities may lack motivation to investigate a case?

Criminal Behaviour Orders: Bike thieves are sometimes issued CBO (the new name for ASBOs)s upon conviction, which ban them from possessing bikes or bike parts without proof of ownership. This significantly lowers the burden of proof for people with a track record of stealing. Cambridgeshire police have published some CBOs relevant to bike theft on their website, but in general, the process of obtaining such information is needlessly opaque and bureaucratic. Enormous progress could be made on stopping bike theft if every person convicted of stealing a bike more than once automatically received a time-limited CBO, and the list of current CBOs was made publicly available and easy to find.

Better locks: It is true that battery-powered angle grinders can break the strongest D Locks in seconds, but it is rare and risky for criminals to use them. Most thefts are the consequence of weak bike locks that can be dismantled with basic tools (or none at all). Retailers should be prohibited from selling shoddy bike locks, and bike owners should be educated on the protocols needed to keep their property safe (for instance, using more than one lock and locking both wheels and the frame).

More bike parking: Even the best locks are useless without safe bike parking. Far too many bike stands in the UK are bolted down with standard nuts than can be removed quickly with a hand spanner. Local authorities should ensure that new bike stands either have security bolts or are concreted into the ground. More cycle parking should also be provided in public spaces. There are appallingly long waiting lists for cycle hangars in urban centres like Southwark, Camden and Islington, which unfairly deter people from owning bikes.

Bike Registration: The probability of recovering a bike without record of its frame number is close to zero. Even if the police find the bike, the owner has little way to prove ownership. The best solution is to record one’s bike details on  www.bikeregister.com and get a sticker letting thieves know the bike is registered. France has already required retailers to register the new bikes they sell, and many Conservative MPs in the UK are supporting a similar bill for quad bikes – it makes complete sense to extend this to all bikes.

There is so much that owners, police, and the government can do to curb bike theft. Cyclists in the UK have a right to feel that their property is safe.

*Many thanks to the Cambridgeshire police for all they are doing to tackle this problem – speaking to them does illustrate the enormous demands placed on modern policing.

Team Liz Responds to Conservative Friends of Cycling

Conservative Friends of cycling have written to the two candidates for the Conservative Party Leadership as to ask for their views on cycling, in particular:

  1. Do you support the Government’s ‘Gear Change’ policy and policy objective that 50% of all journeys in towns and cities should be walked or cycled by 2030.?
  2.  What measures would you support to promote modal shift towards cycling and walking?
  3. What personal experience do you have of cycling?
  4. Will you continue to support Active Travel England?

Team Liz has responded:

‘Thank you for your email to Liz, she really appreciates you getting in touch. 

Good transport links are central to Liz’s plans to turbocharge the economy and unleash the potential of the private sector – we need to better connect every part of the UK to deliver this goal. That is why Liz has committed to build the infrastructure this country needs, and this includes infrastructure for cycling. This will help to get our country growing again – ensuring people can access good jobs, good schools, and good high streets wherever they live.

Upgrading local transport links in cities and communities will connect people to the places they want to be. We will deliver more frequent and better integrated transport links in the places that need it most – employing the latest technology to make it easier to move across all modes of transport, ensuring that people are not limited how they want to travel by the places they live. We have seen the growth of cycling in our cities and towns –  and cycling as a healthy method of transport should continue to be promoted. Liz is committed to levelling up in our transport sector, working to create an environment that promotes cycling and ensures it can continue to be a huge part of our society. 

I know Liz is looking forward to working with the cycling community to improve access to cycling and promote their interests.’

Team Rishi Responds to Conservative Friends of Cycling

Conservative Friends of cycling have written to the two candidates for the Conservative Party Leadership as to ask for their views on cycling, in particular:

  1. Do you support the Government’s ‘Gear Change’ policy and policy objective that 50% of all journeys in towns and cities should be walked or cycled by 2030.?
  2.  What measures would you support to promote modal shift towards cycling and walking?
  3. What personal experience do you have of cycling?
  4. Will you continue to support Active Travel England?

Team Rishi has responded:

‘Rishi is an avid supporter of cycling and loves cycling around Yorkshire with his daughters. As Chancellor, Rishi announced £710 million of new investment in active travel funding over the next three years, in the last Autumn Budget. This funding will deliver hundreds of miles of high quality, segregated cycle lanes, provide cycle training for every child and deliver an e-bike support programme to make cycling more accessible.

This builds on a £338 million package Rishi announced in July last year, which is already delivering high-quality cycle lanes and aiding the delivery of new schemes to encourage walking. In total, the investment that Rishi provided as Chancellor will allow over 1,000 miles of safe and direct cycling and walking networks to be delivered by 2025.

Rishi has taken investment in cycling and walking to £2 billion over the course of this Parliament and, as Prime Minister, would continue to ensure that the investment is in place to support cycling and cyclists.
If successful in this campaign Rishi will continue to support cycling policy and ensure Active Travel England is able to continue the good work started by the government.’

We look forward to publishing a response from Liz Truss when this is available.

Why opposing safer cycling is bad for candidates

The local elections on 5th May 2022 are rapidly approaching and campaigning is getting under way. As many Conservative candidates join the campaign trail, we explore why opposing safer cycling initiatives won’t be the key to success at the ballot box they’re hoping for.

1. Opposing cycle schemes loses votes

Analysis after the May 2021 elections concludes that candidates in London wards that supported cycling infrastructure saw an increase in support – whereas candidates that opposed the right for resident’s to cycle safely tended to fare more badly [1].

In five Ealing wards where LTNs had been created, campaigns against them by local Conservatives and Liberal Democrats led to a reduction in support for both parties in each of these wards.

Similarly in Kensington, the wards covering Kensington High Street, where a well-used new cycle lane was ripped weeks after it was installed, saw votes for Conservatives drop more than the local average. It was exactly the same story in Chiswick, where local Conservatives opposed the segregated cycle superhighway on Chiswick High Road.

2. Safe cycling schemes & Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are popular

Last year, polling in London showed just 16% of participants opposed Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), whereas 47% supported them [2]. Most surprisingly it was found support for LTNs by car owners (49%) was even higher than for individuals who do not own a car (46%). However we should bear in mind though that many voters in urban areas do not have any access to a car, for instance just 26% of households in Islington have access to a car. [3]

YouGov found in late 2020 that three times more people had positive views of LTNs than negative views. They also found more than half of those asked supported UK government schemes, including new cycle lanes, to encourage people to cycle and walk more (56%), while a fifth opposed them (19%) and only a tenth strongly opposed them (10%) [4].

Research in Walton Forest found introducing LTNs led to a 10% decrease in street crime and this increased to 18% over 3 years – something that perfectly resonates with conservative values [5].

We must not fall into the trap of listening to the loudest voices in our party – or myths perpetuated by angry groups on Twitter – as reasons for scrapping or never implementing schemes that are popular with the majority of voters. 

3. Be constructive when there’s badly implemented schemes 

Wholly negative campaigns focused primarily on opposing cycling infrastructure & LTNs, are off-putting to many voters and are often an over-reaction to a few instances of poorly implemented schemes. Consider whether schemes could be improved with the valuable feedback from residents, instead of just resorting to completely ripping out schemes or opposing all future ones. Some poorly implemented schemes could quickly become a success with minor changes. This article based on a survey from a range of individuals impacted by LTNs, provides 10 excellent suggestions to ensure LTNs are a success.

It is vital that communities are properly consulted before introducing safe cycling infrastructure and LTNs. All too often at the start of the pandemic, Labour councils introduced temporary cycle lanes and LTNs overnight with minimal or no consultation. There has to be decent consultation with local residents to ensure schemes are successfully implemented and consider everyone’s needs.

It’s also worth debunking one particular myth around cycling infrastructure and ambulances. Freedom of Information requests to all England, Scotland and Wales ambulance trusts found no trusts opposed to cycle lanes and a third showing strong support due to the road safety and public health benefits [6].

4. Let’s build on the success of the government’s cycling initiatives at a local level

One of this government’s great successes is the positive impact they’ve had on cycling. There is a lot to shout about with the UK government setting up the £250 million Active Travel Fund for local authorities in 2020, making significant improvements to the Highway Code, launching the widely praised Gear Change document for local authorities and setting up Active Travel England (led by Chris Boardman).

We saw many Labour-led councils take credit for implementing safe cycling infrastructure using the government’s Active Travel Fund in May 2021. This was a missed opportunity for many Conservative-led councils who had not made bids and taken advantage of the fund.

Finally, we’ve seen Andy Street & Ben Houchen achieve success by campaigning with pro cycling policies and appointing tsars. Looking back a bit further we saw Boris Johnson achieve great success in the Labour stronghold that is London, successfully rolling out the “Boris bikes” scheme and countless Cycle Superhighways. It’s no surprise Boris Johnson & Andrew Gilligan have continued to back cycling in 10 Downing Street. 

5. Cycling makes for great news stories and tweets

In the short term, implementing good cycling infrastructure tends to generate positive news stories and are often well received on Twitter. We recently got over 800 retweets by praising new cycle lanes in Cambridge recently and Conservative Councillor Dan Watkins recently had some great news about a new cycle lane from Herne Bay to Whitstable. Longer term, it will be a fantastic legacy to look back on, knowing you’ve helped contribute to countless safe cycling journeys for decades to come.

As Conservatives, let’s give everyone the freedom to be able to choose to cycle safely and we can reap the rewards at the ballot box.

Further reading

[1] Low traffic neighbourhoods popular with London voters, analysis finds


[2] Despite a loud opposing minority, low-traffic neighbourhoods are increasingly popular


[3] Steady Support for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London


[4] New research finds public overestimates opposition to new bike lanes by 50%


[5] The Impact of Introducing a Low Traffic Neighbourhood on Street Crime, in Waltham Forest, London


[6] News release: New cycle lanes no barrier to ambulances


Essential reading: Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking


National Highways – On the road to supporting cycling – but a long way to go

For those looking to improve cycle networks, new roads are both an opportunity and a threat.

There is an opportunity for all new major road schemes (and rail for that matter) to include high quality, interconnected and segregated cycle routes along the line of the new infrastructure, and use these projects to help create new cycle route crossings of rivers, railways etc alongside the new road.

But there is also a threat that when a new road crosses existing cycling or walking routes, these may become blocked or re-routed, extending existing journey times, unless safe and convenient new crossings are created.

So Conservative Friends of Cycling were keen to invite National Highways (Formerly Highways England, and before that the Highways Agency – responsible for major roads) – to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking, to discuss how they are meeting the challenge of the Government’s ambitious plans for increasing levels of Cycling and Walking. On 8th November 2021, the All Party Group met with Freda Rashdi – National Highways Head of Customer Journeys.

Our President, Andrew Selous MP had three questions:

1 What are National Highways doing to make sure all new road schemes comply with the high standards of LTN 1/20 (the Government’s great new technical guidance for cycle infrastructure) – including physically segregated routes, interconnected with other cycle routes without gaps in provision, barriers, chicanes or dismount signs.

2 What are National Highways doing to make sure that funding to meet the aspirations of Gear Change, the Government’s new policies to increase cycling, is integral to the schemes and not just a ‘nice to have’ add-on to pay lip service to sustainable transport.

3. Do National Highways have enough experienced staff who are cyclists themselves and who understand the requirements of the new policy and guidance (such that ‘cycle routes should only be designed by those with experience on a cycle’ as Gear Change suggests).

Cllr Martyn Bolt, committee member of the Conservative Friends of Cycling, also raised the important current topic of National Highways approach to old railway infrastructure that crosses roads – where structural issues are being addressed by infilling with concrete, destroying the option to use old rail routes for cycling and walking.

Freda responded that National Highways have been changing to support active travel.

The funding tranche for 2020-2025 (Road Investment Strategy 2 – RIS2) totalling £27.4m includes new ‘designated funds’ of £936m to support cycling and walking projects around schemes, to be spent in conjunction with local authorities. National Highways confirmed that bids were currently nowhere near reaching the limit of designated funds so funding ‘shouldn’t be a limiting factor on cycling projects’.

Whilst LTN 1/20 applies to Local Authorities, the relevant guidelines applicable to cycling around National Highways schemes (GG 142, CD 143, CD 195) have been updated to move closer to the aspirations of LTN 1/20, although support for cycling infrastructure was still caveated with phrases like being ‘where possible’, and segregation wasn’t part of standards, but it is now ‘an option’.

In terms of the experience of engineers of designing for cycling, there is a team dedicated to active travel, and many National Highways employees were keen cyclists. Whilst internal guidance has been provided to the new standards, it was indicated that training sessions for the new standards haven’t happened for everyone yet.

On the issue of National Highways approach to maintaining old railway infrastructure – there was an interesting revelation – the approach for each structure should be considered independently on its merits as to how to deal with any structural issues, including the impact on cycling and walking.

Finally, National Highways pointed out that guidance had changed relatively recently in the context of a major road scheme timescale, and newer schemes should be better. Some examples were the A6-M1 link road that will have a cycle route adjacent (unlike the earlier A5-M1 link), and the Keswick trail next to the A66.

Questions to the meeting, many from activists with local experience of National Highways schemes, did however raise a number of concerns, and suggests there remains a gap between the aspirations, and what is actually happening on the ground.

Conservative Friends of Cycling Co-Chair Chris Howell raised concerns that the ‘designated funds’ are potentially contentious with competing claims, and argued provision for cycling should be part of the core scheme and its funding, not a bolt on extra. 

APPGCW co-Chair Ruth Cadbury MP enquired if National Highways is incentivised to follow new cycle standards in the same way as local authorities are (where there is a threat that funding for schemes will be cut if the standards for active travel aren’t followed) – something of particular concern given the ‘where possible’ caveats given to reassurances.

Examples were raised of very poor provision for cycling and walking in current schemes e.g. new cycle routes with unsafe road crossings, with suggestions that perhaps not all those involved in designing schemes on the ground share our enthusiasm for safe, segregated cycle routes, or even accept that the updated standards really do apply to their schemes.

Overall, although National Highways is moving in the right direction on active travel, it feels like progress is slow, not normalised within the organisation, and not yet fully matching the governments aspirations for modal shift to cycle and walking.

We would like to see cycling becoming a core part of all new road and rail schemes and to include high quality, interconnected and segregated cycle routes along the line of the new infrastructure, and where existing routes are severed, safe and convenient crossings are created.

We would urge the All Party Group to continue to hold National Highways to account, and follow up as promised on concerns raised at the meeting, and for improved training on active travel for all those responsible for road design. 

Finally, on the issue of infilling old railway structures by National Highways – if options for each road crossing by an old railway should be treated on its merits, taking into account potential for cycling and walking when addressing structural issues, why does there appear to be a blanket approach adopted of concrete-infill and destruction of potential future trails?

How pro-car extremists cheated a Cambridgeshire Consultation and Won

On 27th July 2021 Cambridgeshire County Council Highways and Transport Committee met to decide the fate of the experimental bus gate on Mill Road in Cambridge, that had been introduced in June 2020 as part of emergency active travel funding by the then Conservative controlled Council.

The scheme implementation was not a shining example of how to do things – initial consultations were poor and didn’t get local traders on board. The physical implementation was poor, with poor signage, ugly buildouts to allow social distancing, and no efforts at all to improve the appearance of the road or take advantage of the dramatic reductions in motor vehicles on the road to help traders benefit from the higher levels of cycling and walking. Local campaign group Camcycle begged the Council to improve the quality of the scheme, but these requests fell on deaf ears.

But the main purpose of the scheme – a modal filter approximately half way along the busy shopping street was successful and popular. Previously high volumes of traffic (14,000 vehicles a day) were using the minor road to short cut to the City Centre, with the street layout, as is so often the case, completely prioritising motor vehicles, creating a dangerous and unpleasant environment and leaving many cyclists too scared to use it. With the modal filter in place, the street became calmer, pleasant and safer, with many reports of residents now happier to cycle and walk along the road. Despite the challenges of Covid, 14 new businesses opened on the road after the modal filter was installed, showing the confidence of many traders in the new arrangements.

So it was deeply disappointing to see the committee vote to remove the filter – the road has already returned to being a noisy, polluted and dangerous traffic corridor, with the shops, cyclists and pedestrians again marginalised. The Council, now controlled by a Lib/Lab coalition saw Conservative members of the committee after heavy lobbying from some of the local traders and the local Conservative Association united with the Labour deputy chair of the committee who used her casting vote to reopen the road, with all the usual canards about displaced traffic, and the wild overstatement of how important through traffic stopping to park illegally outside shops is for business.

Mill Road Cambridge is now back to heavy traffic

So how could the Councillors justify such a decision given how popular the scheme was with local residents? The answer is that the Council carried out a deeply flawed consultation.

The committee were presented with survey results that in answer to the question ‘To what extent do you support/oppose the closure of Mill Road bridge to all traffic except buses, cycles and pedestrians?’ indicated:

Support/Strongly Support: 51.9%

Oppose/Strongly Oppose: 45.7%

No view either way: 2.4%

So clear support from residents to retain the filter. Except the report presented to committee indicated:

During the quality assurance process, undertaken as part of all our consultation analysis practices, 623 responses were flagged as potential duplicates. These were identified due to repeat use of logins, identical unique user numbers (generated for anonymous users from browser cookies), and blocks of strongly support/strongly oppose submissions within short time frames.

Following advice from the Consultation Institute, and no cases of duplicate ‘cut and paste’ answers in the open comment qualitative questions, a purely qualitative analysis was undertaken of the formal consultation questionnaire in order to understand the impacts of the ETRO on Mill Road.

In other words, the quantitative responses were included in an appendix without comment, with the clear implication that they should be ignored.

But what of these duplicate responses? The Council made no attempt to analyse what the impact of the identified duplicate responses was, so we obtained the data set and tried to repeat the analysis. It proved difficult to recreate their method and identify all 623 duplicate responses, but it was easy to spot where many many multiple anonymous responses had been made from the same web browser. For example, there were 173 responses from browser id’s with more than 10 responses each (ie almost certainly trying to cheat the consultation):

Anonymous User:2907544363
Anonymous User:2962741333
Anonymous User:3553806425
Anonymous User:3534385119
Anonymous User:1849899318
Anonymous User:3641904615
Grand Total173

And which way do we think the responses from these users went? We can exclusively reveal the results of analysing these 173 responses:

Support/Strongly Support: 14.6% (all showing as strongly support)

Oppose/Strongly Oppose: 85.4% (77.78% strongly oppose)

No view either way: 2.4%

So surprise surprise, those trying to rig the consultation were overwhelming from the pro-traffic extremists – and this analysis is strong evidence that the duplicate responses were attempts to manipulate the survey rather than, for example, a web browser in a community centre that would likely have a distribution of responses much closer to the overall distribution. Analysis of responses from browsers with 3-10 responses weren’t quite as skewed, but did also show results significantly opposed to the filter (compared to the net support in the whole data set), indicating that some but not all of these were also likely to be attempts to rig the consultation with multiple responses by the pro-traffic side.

So unforgivably the Council told Councillors to ignore the quantitative results of the consultation showing support for the scheme (effectively asking them to decide with no evidence at all of the scale of public support for the scheme) because pro-car activists had cheated the consultation, and simply removing the suspicious responses would have shown that there was in fact very strong support from residents for the filter.

Tragically this woeful decision was just 3 days before Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to Councils making it clear how unacceptable it was to remove schemes like this without good evidence (which is exactly what Cambridgeshire had just done), and making it clear consultations must be designed to be representative, and suspended funding for active travel schemes to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined authority. After further discussions and announcements from the new mayor, there is hope that this decision will in time be reversed, and a filter will be reinstated, but in the meantime, Councils and Councillors need to be aware that consultations that don’t take steps to avoid manipulation could well overstate opposition from a minority of very angry pro-car people cheating the surveys, at the expense of the majority who want to see quieter, safer and less polluted streets and who support simple measures to tackle climate change and public health like supporting active travel.

The Case for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

The government is strongly supportive of cycling and active travel and rightly so – LTNs (Low Traffic Neighbourhoods) are about persuading some people out of their cars and to make more of their shorter journeys, particular in cities, by other modes of transport (so called modal shift) – the traffic doesn’t stay the same and relocate, much of the traffic is able bodied people making short journeys that are much better done by other modes of transport, and the journeys just disappear as people make more sensible choices (https://thecityfix.com/blog/traffic-evaporation-what-really-happens-when-road-space-is-reallocated-from-cars/).

The sudden deep and profound interest of people in disability access problems or the adaptability of small businesses to change is doubtless a good thing, but in reality it is almost always a proxy for ‘Why can’t I drive everywhere I want to as quickly and conveniently as possible with access to almost all of the the highway to the near exclusion of most other road users’.

Why is the government supporting Low Traffic Neighbourhoods? They tackle multiple major public policy problems in a way that is low cost and electorally popular (apart from amongst tiny vocal minorities) so of course they are doing this. They are trying to deal with climate change – not taking 2 tonnes of metal with you when you pop down the shops for a pint of milk or packet of fags is always going to be the easiest of easy wins when there will be much harder more expensive choices coming along to deal with the ever more obvious threat of climate change. We have a public health crisis due to lack of physical activity – diabetes is costing the NHS 10% of its entire budget (https://www.diabetes.co.uk/cost-of-diabetes.html), and in many cases this is a lifestyle disease with inactive lifestyles and obesity the main cause. Commuting to work by bike dramatically reduces someones chance of dying prematurely in middle age (https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456) – if the health benefits of regular cycling could be put into a pill taken daily, it would be the most valuable new pharmaceutical ever discovered. Car dominated highways are one of the main barriers to active travel.

Cars take almost all the space on urban roads – its ludicrous to talk of a war on cars (As Conservative Home does again today) when cars dominate everything almost everywhere – they cause pollution, many thousands of deaths and serious injuries, and a clear majority of people don’t want their neighbourhoods dominated by them. This is not a new idea – changes have been happening for decades in the Netherlands, and in many cases in the UK. There are always a few angry people at first, then acceptance, then no-one would think of suggesting we go back to how things were before. Opposition to lower traffic neighbourhoods by local Conservative campaigns based on vocal minorities is not just a missed opportunity given the great lead being shown by national government – it is also electorally toxic as ultimately the changes are beneficial to communities and therefore electorally popular.

Greenwich Conservatives Lead Calls for Extension of Santander Cycles to South East of London

Once lockdown ends, London’s public transport capacity will be five times less than before the pandemic, due to the challenges posed by creating socially distanced travel, according to TfL. For many of us, this means that our journeys will have to be made by other means.  

It was therefore welcome that the Director of Surface Transport at TfL, Gareth Powell, recently expressed his desire to expand the geographical footprint of Santander Cycles, in line with the introduction of new cycle lanes throughout the capital.  

Greenwich Conservatives have followed up with Mr. Powell, writing to him to request that any future expansion of Santander Cycle coverage includes finally opening the network to South East London.  

The TfL network outside of buses is currently severely limited in South East London with only one underground station. Even with a  proposed Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham, if funding were to be confirmed in 2021 this would not be delivered until the early 2030’s leaving the area underserviced by public transport and unlikely to be able to meet demand post lockdown. 

Prior to the pandemic it was already difficult to board a train at Deptford in rush hour, but it will be even more difficult with 50,000 new homes being built near the Old Kent Road, Greenwich Peninsula, Charlton Riverside and in Deptford itself.  

Therefore, whilst other means of transport are restricted, the barren coverage of Santander Cycles in South East London provides a great opportunity for growth. It could also be coincided with the current regeneration of the Old Kent Road and be up and running within the year.  

By extending Santander Cycles to South East London TfL could provide a healthier, more environmentally friendly and covid-safe alternative to current forms of public transport in South East London allowing more residents to travel post lockdown.  

Extending Santander Cycles to the South East – currently poorly served by other transport options would be a deliverable and good value for money way to improve transport capacity.

School Run by Matt Woods

If you’re over a certain age it’s more than likely that your journey to school involved using your own two feet, or getting on your bike.  Figures from the National Travel Survey however, show that since the 1970s, the proportion of children being driven to school has increased while the numbers walking or cycling has fallen sharply.  With concerns about congestion and pollution, isn’t it about time we learned to leave the car at home, and start moving around under our own steam again?

Perhaps, but our most direct route is along the A206, along the section between the Woolwich Ferry and the Blackwall Tunnel; not the most inviting or safe route if you have a two-year-old in a cycle trailer!  It’s no wonder, that unlike the Netherlands, where most children are either cycled to school, or cycle themselves to school, most parents in the UK, are reluctant to allow their children to do the same.  

The Game Changer

So why have I decided to brave this 2-mile route by bicycle and leave the car at home?  Well I’m not the usual eco-warrior type.  I drive a ten year old diesel estate car and don’t get unduly worried about booking a flight abroad, but it just seemed such a waste of time and fuel driving my daughter such a short distance, especially at a time when the roads were filled with others doing exactly the same.  But surely the car would at least be a bit safer on that A206, with all the tipper trucks, cars and HGVs converging on Blackwall Tunnel?  

Well thankfully, I’ve also got a great, off-road cycle route right on my doorstep.  Quietway 14, taking in most of the Thames Path, pretty much runs door-to-door. It’s a fantastic ride, tracking along the River Thames, carving through old warehouses and the Thames Barrier Park.  There are no cars, it’s been recently resurfaced, and new signage added, and is really easy to use for a beginner, with no map-reading, steep climbs or off-roading skills required!  It’s everything a route should be: direct, easy to navigate and going to somewhere you actually want to go.  It’s great to be able to make these trips by bike and save on the time, money and stress of having to drive them.  I’ll often see neighbours at the school gate at the end of the day before we head off our separate ways, them by car, only to both be parking up back home at the same time!

So why don’t more of us do this?

Obviously, we’re a long way from the situation in the Netherlands. I’m lucky in having a high-quality route on my doorstep, but most parents with children at the same school don’t have that option.  Some will be coupling a school journey with a work trip, or be having to take children further afield to schools out of catchment areas, but while the average journey length and time to school has increased since the 70s, most children are still within a 20-30 minute walk or bike ride.  With an estimated 25% of morning rush hour traffic down to the “School Run”, even enabling some of those journeys to be done another way would still have a huge positive impact on congestion.  So what are we waiting for?

‘Champions of Cycling’ by Dr Suzanne Bartington

Monday 30th September 2019

Dr Suzanne Bartington – Cycling Champion, Oxfordshire County Council 

This event today is very timely – just over a week ago we saw thousands of people, particularly the young, line the streets demanding urgent action to mitigate the unfolding climate crisis. 

On Sunday 22nd September we also saw a large number of cities take park in World Car Free Day – an opportunity to reimagine public realm without motorised vehicles. 

For increasingly it is recognised that the provision of healthy and sustainable transport options is essential to mitigate the negative effects of the way we move around upon both the environment and our health. 

In my own field of public health, I would argue that an active travel focussed approach is vital to tackle our multiple challenges of environmental degradation climate change. Air pollution and physical inactivity. 

  1. Climate Change 

For in public health terms, it is only relatively recently we have built ourselves into this situation. Back in 1952, less than 30% of distance travelled in Britain was by car, 

Over subsequent decades, cars increasingly relatively affordable compared to other transport alternatives. 

Planning and land use policies successively prioritised car mobility over walking, cycling and public transport accessibility. 

By 1970, the pattern had reversed, with three-quarters of all passenger miles made by private vehicle, reaching 85% by the late 1980s.  

Where I live in Oxfordshire, the number of cars per household is over 1.5 – fitting in all these cars in residential areas is an increasing problem   – regularly filling Councillors inboxes with parking problems. 

Yet the average car spends about 80% of the time parked at home, is parked elsewhere for about 16% of the time and is thus only actually in use (ive moving) for the remaining 4% of the time. It is exceedingly inefficient in use of time and space. 

In addition, most trips made by car are of a short distance, with a third of trips less than 2 miles, which could be taken in just 10 minutes by bike. 

This reliance on the private care is damaging both the planet and our own health. 

Overall in the UK the transport sector is responsible for around one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions – almost two thirds of which (62%) is from private cars. Carbon dioxide emissions from road transport has also been the most resistant to reductions, compared to other sectors. 

Our overarching imperative to radically mitigate carbon emissions should be driving our transport and planning economic – at local, regional and national levels.

  • Air Pollution 

Road transport is also predominantly responsible for toxic levels of harmful pollutants – such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. 

These pollutants penetrate deep into the small airways of our lungs, into the cardiovascular system and scientific evidence is unequivocal as to the impacts on almost every organ of the body. 

From before birth to old age – with effects including low birth weight, miscarriage, asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and emerging evidence about dementia. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. 

Diesel was recognised as Category 1 carcinogen nitrogen dioxide as well as being a respiratory irritant contributes to acidification – causing damage to local buildings and ecosystems. 

Particulate matter, will not be solved by transition to electric or autonomous vehicles. As acknowledged by the government’s Air Quality Expert Group particles from brake, tyre and road surface wear directly contribute to well over half of particle pollution from road transport. 

Those riding bikes are usually exposed to less air pollution than people in cars and buses. Segregated routes reduce this even more, with a distance of just a few metres leading to a reductions in around a quarter. 

Cycling is not just quick but also clean, close to zero emission as possible. 

3. Physical and Mental Health 

And then there are the multiple positive benefits of getting on a bike. 

I’m a doctor myself and have seen first hand the consequences of our sedentary modern society. Whether it be Type II diabetes, chronic lung disease or strokes the wider costs of physical inactivity are over £7Bn each year. 

We live in a nation where 11 million adults are inactive and over a fifth of children are overweight or obese when they leave school. 

The health benefits are estimated at between 13:1 and 415:1 (with an average of 20:1) for life years gained vs years lost. This is truly astonishing. When I teach medical students about benefits of interventions it is usually relatively marginal in comparison – if this were a drug it really would be a wonder pill. 

Cycling is relatively low impact, non-weight bearing and is easy to integrate into daily routines. 

And it is that integration with transport through utility cycling in daily life, such as to school and work, is an ideal mechanism to improve health outcomes 

Yet in many areas these processes are not joined up – planning is separated from public health and health is not integral to planning. We continue to deliver car centric communities which do not encourage or even facilitate behavioural change. 

An example I recently learned of a key active travel underpass below a busy main road which was due to be closed off as part of a planning application in a local town. We need a far more proactive process in the health of people is so strongly linked to the environment around them. 

Cycling is a more sociable and interactive way to travel – freed up from being cocooned in a driving box. 

Able to observe expressions, catch up with friends, immerse oneself in the community around. The changing of the seasons, falling of leaves, the stars which I look at when cycling after dark. Splashing through puddles on a wet day.

This rich, intense sensory experience is infinitely more rewarding than the sanitised car interior devoid of human interaction. It is no surprise that cycling is also good for our mental as well as physical health. 

Cycling is also an effective mechanism to improve health equity by enhancing access to local services  – GPs, shops, recreational centres. Yet we so frequently fail to achieve the most basic of provision. Take my local GP practice – 3 cycle racks, overgrown with weeds and one broken.  These are meant to be health promoting 

Time and time again I receive emails about people unable to get to their nearest shop by bike after dark. The nearest shop is down an unviting, unlit and unsurfaced path. There is no signage to the nearest station or indeed to any nearby facilities. Yet less than half a mile away there are illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide – we need to join this up. More roads are simply not an answer. 


Cycling is certainly win-win-win – for the environment, the economy for health. 

We know that the key market for increasing cycling uptake is everyday trips – shifting those short car journeys to two wheels. This is what drives the high modal shares in Cambridge and Oxford  – in Oxford we know that 72% of journeys each week by bike take place within the city. and this is what we need to achieve outside these cities and I believe with the right strategic approach and political commitment we can do it the context of Oxfordshire. 

If we were to adopt levels of Holland or Denmark research by Cycling UK shows: 

Save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years 

• Reduce road deaths by 30% 

• Increase mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25% 

• Increase retail sales by a quarter 

• Reduce air pollution and save 400 productive life years 

• Reduce cycling casualties by 2/3rds 

• Saves a third of road space compared to driving 

It is for these reasons that a simple solution, on two wheels is right here. 

Combined with e-bikes as a game changer the bike can help us unpick the multiple woes we have brought upon ourselves with car usage.

We need to achieve a paradigm shift – to change assumptions about the way we travel. 

Placing people at the centre of travel, placing the most vulnerable first rather last, and being politically bold. 

Reducing and restricting traffic is crticial as the experience of the Netherlands has shown. 

A shift away from isolated schemes towards integrated networks, 

We know it can be achieved as it has elsewhere

Political willpower and commitment is absolutely critical. We need champions of cycling at all levels and layers to make this case. 

Commissioners with responsibilities to oversee processes and embed this agenda at the heart of the agenda for our towns and cities. 

To shift from ‘niche’ to ‘normal’ for travel by foot and bike