Cycling at our expense

March 14, 2011 9:44 AM

The point of using taxpayers’ money to encourage cycling was brought into question by the results of a three-year project in Bristol, Britain’s so-called first ‘Cycling City’. Given £22.8 million in 2008, Bristol council aimed to double the amount of cyclists using its roads, but three years later, cycling has risen by only a third.

Two thirds of this money was spent on creating off-road cycle paths and installing 1500 new bike stands, while the other third went on “changing people’s attitudes to cycling” through training in school and at work. It has been estimated that this amounts to the equivalent of paying £3,000 for every new cyclist in Bristol.

So, not only was this scheme a failure on its own terms and a clear waste of taxpayers’ money, but it also makes one wonder what on earth the government thinks it is doing intruding into our everyday modes of private transport. Surely, this is one of those occasions when the market plays a much more efficient role?

Cycling is most likely to increase these days because of the spiralling cost of petrol, and the squeeze on personal expenditure wrought by higher taxes and lower wages. In London, where cycling has doubled over nine years, this may well have something to do with the introduction of the congestion charge, exorbitant parking fees, and overcrowded public transport—factors much more likely to encourage people to get on their bike rather than any amount of expensive cycling paths and free school lessons. Yet another example of a bloated government finding ways to spend our money on pointless initiatives.

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers’ AllianceThe point of using taxpayers’ money to encourage cycling was brought into question by the results of a three-year project in Bristol, Britain’s so-called first ‘Cycling City’. Given £22.8 million in 2008, Bristol council aimed to double the amount of cyclists using its roads, but three years later, cycling has risen by only a third.

Two thirds of this money was spent on creating off-road cycle paths and installing 1500 new bike stands, while the other third went on “changing people’s attitudes to cycling” through training in school and at work. It has been estimated that this amounts to the equivalent of paying £3,000 for every new cyclist in Bristol.

So, not only was this scheme a failure on its own terms and a clear waste of taxpayers’ money, but it also makes one wonder what on earth the government thinks it is doing intruding into our everyday modes of private transport. Surely, this is one of those occasions when the market plays a much more efficient role?

Cycling is most likely to increase these days because of the spiralling cost of petrol, and the squeeze on personal expenditure wrought by higher taxes and lower wages. In London, where cycling has doubled over nine years, this may well have something to do with the introduction of the congestion charge, exorbitant parking fees, and overcrowded public transport—factors much more likely to encourage people to get on their bike rather than any amount of expensive cycling paths and free school lessons. Yet another example of a bloated government finding ways to spend our money on pointless initiatives.

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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