Thursday, 22 December 2016

Fairy Godmother Wanted for Southampton City Cycling Plan

It is the season for pantomimes. At this moment the City Cycling plan is a fairy story, and the council has no plans to invest the money required to bring give the frog the kiss of life. They are hoping that a fairy godmother will arrive to give them the money.

The evidence of this was clear this morning, when I was interviewed by Julian Clegg on Radio Solent - just after the 0700 News. And after the 0800 News, Pete Boustred, the City Strategic Transport Manager, gave a response. (You can listen to this again - details at the bottom of this post)

Before the interview the BBC reporter, Jess Parker, gave an excellent summary of the highlights of the Southampton Cycle Plan. You can read the plan, and my response to it, and make your own response from my previous blog,  The Southampton City Council Strategy for Cycling.

In the interview I was able to affirm that the plan is indeed a very promising move in the right direction. But I raised the following doubts.

  • The plan does not appear to be linked to the city strategy;
  • It is not clear where the money is coming from;
  • It is not clear how the council will govern this project to make sure it really happens.

I explained that Southampton City Council has produced previous Cycle Strategies but they have sunk without trace, and that many cycle campaigners are highly cynical about the real intention of the council in this version of the plan, believing that the council are merely going through the motions of satisfying government that they are addressing their appalling transport statistics and air quality figures without any real intention of doing anything.

The "headline" for this item was "Doubts have been Raised about the Council Ten Year Cycling Plan", and it provided the council with a real opportunity to deny the doubts and demonstrate real commitment.

It didn't start well.  No-one from the council was prepared to be available to answer the challenge, and Pete Boustred, who gave the response is a council employee, not a member of the council.  He is the man that manages the work - not the politician who is responsible for the vision.

It went from bad to worse.  Pete said the the plan was ambitious.  The plan is not ambitious at all - it is conservative in the extreme.  The ambition is to increase cycling by 10% each year for 10 years, which will get us to only just more journeys by bike than Gosport already has, and still way short of the "real" cycling cities.  

Now most cycle campaigners would be happy with a plan that is conservative if that means it is realistic and will really happen.  So Julian Clegg pointed out that I had done a back of the envelope calculation that showed that the first four years of the plan would cost about £2M per year, and he asked Pete if that money was in the budget.

No.  That money is not in the budget, and Pete gave the same shifty answer that is in the plan - "We will look for offers of funding bids", and he did admit that the allocated budget is about £0.5M per year.

This is absolutely not satisfactory. The accident rate for cyclists, alone, should be justification for doing more - how many people have to die to prove the point? (16% of all accidents in Southampton involve cycles - When these sort of stats hit the Netherlands in the 1970's, the people started the "Stop The Child Murder" campaign which changed the country)

  • £2M per annum is around 10% of the transport budget.  If we want more than 10% of journeys done by cycle then we should certainly be investing AT LEAST 10% of the budget - we have a lot of catching up to do!
  • Actually, the first four years of the plan does not get get us anywhere near 4/10ths of the stated aim of the ten year plan.  We actually need far MORE than this.
  • Southampton has the fifth worse air quality figures in the country, in spite of the fact that there is very little industrial pollution - it all comes from ships and transport.  If the council is serious about addressing this then one of the most effective ways would be to significantly increase the number of journeys by bike. This is a perfectly realistic ambition, when we know that 50% of journeys in Southampton are less than 3 miles!!  Money should be coming from environmental budgets to address this.
  • Whenever there is a new development it should only be allowed if the development makes a contribution to the cycle infrastructure. The cycle plan actually suggests that this will indeed happen.  (Imagine if new developments did not have parking, or pavements!).  But there is no sign of it so far - for example the new West Quay Watermark development removed an essential cycle route from the esplanade up to the centre of town, with no replacement, instead forcing bikes to mix with two lanes of dense traffic on a steep hill, or else get off and walk. You can hardly blame the cycle plan cynics for pointing out that this is not the behaviour of a council that has any seriousness about creating a "Cycle City".
  • External funding would be good too! From central government perhaps, but, for example, one could point to the damage done to the roads and the environment by lorries going to the docks (often driving through the city centre instead of coming in via the M27), and ask whether ABP might consider sponsoring a few cycle lanes from their considerable profits. Or maybe companies such as Carnival that fill our port with ships exuding the pollution equivalent to 100's of thousands of cars, even while stationary.

I am really disappointed to report that the council is waiting for a fairy godmother rather than taking any real responsibility for implementing its plan. All the signs are that the council will continue, as it has for many years, to duck and weave at any request to actually do anything useful for cycles. This would be enormously disappointing.

Thanks to

PLEASE PLEASE Southampton City Council, prove me wrong!  This is about the future of our city,  and the quality of life of the people who live in Southampton.

If you want to hear the interviews on Listen Again, go to
and the two relevant sections are at 42:30 - 47:33  and 1:38:10 - 1:43:01


  1. Great blog Hugh.

    Sadly though, it shares pretty much the same views as mine.
    How I wish I was wrong, and that the Council and us were all on the same side, pulling together.

    Trying to be positive tho', I've just finished a personal response to the Draft Strategy, doing my best to offer some tips on funding.

    But in the end, it's all going to be about political committment at a level of Leader and Deputy Fat Controller.

    It's not enough that the Leader is a nice guy who cycles occasionally, and who's administration has controlled the Council for the past 4½ years while doing nothing at all. Other cities have similar funding crises' yet have had the bottle to grasp the nettle.

    Curious mix of metaphors there.

    Happy Crimbo to everyone anyway.

    Brian Burnell

  2. The Workplace Parking Levy could be a way for the Council to raise the necessary money needed to implement this plan. Nottingham manages to raise £9m a year with the WPL and other councils are following their lead.

    1. Yes! I should have included that in the first place. At some stage I will update the post. Any other ways the council could directly raise money for cycle paths? Crowd funding? Sponsorship? Congestion zone charging?

    2. excellent idea, how can we take this forward?

    3. It's in the campaigns response :)
      Jon B

  3. You are asking how the council can raise money for cycling, and in your post you suggest that "Money should be coming from environmental budgets….”.

    Well Southampton has a perfect opportunity right now. By 2020 Southampton is one of five cities required to implement a “Clean Air Zone” See

    Heavily polluting vehicles are to be discouraged from entering the city by charging. Lets get some commitment from the City Council to use 100% of the money collected from this charge to invest in cycle (and walking) infrastructure.

    The council would do well to find the will to take action to care for the health of its citizens *and* demonstrate a commitment to its cycling strategy (within the context of a sustainable transport policy) Furthermore, their best effort would be to introduce this change as soon as possible before the 2020 deadline.

    We sometimes see the claim that Southampton is a green city thanks to the large numbers of wonderful green open spaces we have, why not embrace changes which would add the this particular claim to fame.

  4. Well written and argued. It's sad to see another council failing to see the multiple benefits of cycling.

    It's probably worth investigating the proposed combined authority for Southampton, Portsmouth & Isle of wight as they will have direct responsibility for transport if it comes into being. Any elected mayor would have powers similar to London Mayor.

    As Chair of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, we are keen to create links between the cycle campaigns in the three areas to start a dialogue to lobby the CA for cycle funding from the outset.

  5. I'm copying this from a Facebook comment from Liz Batten.(With thanks). According to Sustrans Policy Director, Jason Torrance, writing in (page 18)

    "The inclusion of the WCIS (walking and cycling investment strategy) means the secretary of state for transport is now required by law to set out a strategy for cycling infrastructure. More importantly, it also requires the government to provide funding to meet the plans."

    Does this mean there is money available for Southampton's cycling strategy under this new policy, I wonder?