Earl Howe, now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, points out that you need to have an organisation like Cycling England to hold local authorities properly to account — the exact conclusion of the DfT review of the NCS which recommended creation of Cycling England. The first thing the coalition did was to kick the ball into the long grass and feign injury.
Earl Howe (Shadow Minister, Health; Conservative)
…In the national cycle strategy published in 1996, the previous Conservative Government made a rather bold pledge; to double the number of bicycle trips by the end of 2002 and to quadruple the number of trips by the end of 2012. Not only has this not begun to happen, but in 2005 the Government conceded in their White Paper that it was not going to happen and that the original target could not be achieved. How could they tell? It was easy enough, because the statistics were actually moving backwards.
The frustrating part is that the present Government came to office and did many of the things that they needed to do to give cycling a real boost. They endorsed the previous Government's strategy, and they put in train some good initiatives at local authority level which, with a bit of a push from Ministers, should have gathered speed. But, somehow, the momentum was lost. That could not be more unfortunate in view of the public health imperative….
…There has been much talk by Ministers of working more closely with local authorities, "to put in place sharper, more focused local plans and targets", which was in the White Paper. Despite all that, rates of cycling have actually fallen from where they were a decade ago by about a fifth and stand at just 1 per cent of all journeys. The number of 11 to 15 year-olds cycling to school has also gone down very considerably in the past 10 to 12 years. How the Government have allowed that dismal situation to come about is not particularly difficult to diagnose; they took their eye off the ball. They did not manage to hold local authorities properly to account for delivering on the targets. The ball was picked up again in 2005, when Cycling England was created and when Sir Ron Eddington was asked to carry out his transport study, which contained a number of useful conclusions for cycling policy. But even today, progress around the country, with the signal exception of London, has been very limited indeed.