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A NATIONAL TARGET FOR CYCLING?

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After taking preliminary advice from the National Cycling Strategy Board for England, the Department for Transport ...
After taking preliminary advice from the National Cycling Strategy Board for England, the Department for Transport recently announced that the national target for cycling (originally set in 1996) was no longer considered achievable in the timescale set. Instead, it had been decided in England to establish specific local targets by consultation with local authorities, and to seek commitment to them.

NCS board chairman Phillip Darnton said:

'This decision is practical and realistic, and helps in advancing policies for encouraging more cycling. However, in some quarters it has been construed as a weakening of resolve by government towards a long-held objective of encouraging more cycling.

'The NCS board recognises that a single over-arching national target for increased cycling had the merit of simplicity, and provided a powerful publicity 'headline' for government commitment. But it also carried with it the significant drawback that - at a local level - a 'national average' target can readily be dismissed as irrelevant, and as such can be demotivating.

'The NCS board's view is that the original target of quadrupling the number of trips made by bicycle by 2012 is not now achievable in the remaining eight years. As an expression of what percentage of all trips in the UK might reasonably be expected to be made by cycle eventually, the original target is entirely in line with experience in other countries. But the surge in cycling that would be needed to reach such a level by 2012 is unprecedented anywhere.

'In the circumstances, the NCS board was clear that a review of the original target was necessary. The proposal to adopt, through discussion, individual targets at local authority level has the merit of creating both relevant and motivating local targets, against which progress can be monitored very specifically.

'The DfT has expressed confidence that it has the means to develop such targets over the next few months in collaboration with local authorities, and to win commitment to those targets. Provided that happens, the result should be much more beneficial than any adjustment of the original national target timescale.

'The NCS board will be concerned to see that the proposed new approach to setting local targets is implemented quickly; that commitment is forthcoming from local authorities at the appropriate level; and that progress is monitored and challenged regularly.'

Notes

1.The National Cycling Strategy was launched in 1996. It aims to establish a culture favourable to the increased use of bicycles for all ages. The Strategy is a consensus document that was developed in a spirit of partnership between organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

2.The NCS Board for England is charged with carrying forward and implementing the National Cycling Strategy in England. The board meets approximately every two months and reports annually to a stakeholders' meeting of those representing the interests of cycling and cyclists.

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