COMMENT: Adios Cycling England

The pro-cycling quango closes its doors this month...
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How do you measure success? It’s a question that troubles every company, organisation and person at one time or another. It’s a question that becomes all the more pertinent when you’re staring down the metaphorical gun barrel of a boss looking for some justification for your existence.

Certainly, it seems the success that Cycling England had, within the cycle trade and throughout the country, wasn’t measurable enough to convince the Government that it was worth preserving, despite being run for only £200,000 a year. A figure that is, lest we forget, the equivalent cost of five metres of the M6 motorway.

What I’m attempting to hit on, is the point that measuring the effect Cycling England had is, in many ways, really tough to quantify. Having a hotline to Westminster and lobbying for the cause of cycling is the kind of thing that sounds woolly to naysayers looking to save (relative) peanuts on something that promotes the obesity-quashing, pollution-tackling practise of cycling. They could have just boosted the Treasury by stopping multinational corporations avoiding paying billions of tax, you know. Just saying.

What we do know for certain, however, is that Bikeability – launched by Cycling England in 2007 – has been a massive success. By Olympic year half a million children are expected to have taken part in Bikeability cycle training. It is a scheme treasured by the cycle trade – its survival topping the list of concerns of the industry at the time of the Cycling England announcement. Funding for Bikeability has been guaranteed, ensuring Cycling England’s legacy endures.

The soon-to-be-no-more quango also proved that investment in cycling works. The Cycling England-led Cycling City, Cycling Towns programme saw cash spent on encouraging biking in those local areas. As a result, cycling increased by 27 per cent across all the towns in the scheme, bucking the general downward trend in cycling in the UK outside London over the last three decades. Using strict DfT measures, it also found that for every pound spent on cycling, three is paid back, saving the state money.

Whether local councils – now in charge of the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund – will bear that in mind when they’re divvying up the Fund’s cash remains to be seen.

So if you’re that way inclined and have a drink handy, why not raise a glass to the outgoing Cycling England, to its achievements, measurable or otherwise, and to all who sailed in her.

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