Active Travel Tranche 3 schemes were submitted to the Department of Transport on the 8th of August via West of England Combined Authority. Despite previous public criticisms by the current Cabinet Member For Transport, as well as other councillors, that they were not consulted properly on ATF Tranche 2 schemes, there has been no public engagement as to what those Tranche 3 schemes would be.
Bristol council published their schemes on the 14th of September.
Many councillors criticised the previous administration, and particularly Cllr Joanna Wright (Now Green Party), for not consulting on the Tranche 2 bids DESPITE being presented with a strategic cycle network map in April 2020 where the Upper Bristol Road route and the North Road route were clearly identified.
Yet at least £900k of Tranche 3 bids with no engagement with the public or, from what I can work out, the majority of the 57 elected councillors has happened.
The real problem is the CEO
But to blame the councillors for their political machinations and hypocrisy is to fail to recognise the route of the problem which lies with BathNES CEO Will Godfrey and his board of directors.
Why has this map not been added to the highly criticised Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP)? Where is the Bath & NORTH EAST SOMERSET Map? Why is the Will Godfrey allowing councillors to set a political narrative around simply bringing our roads up to a good standard? He would not allow this interference for road resurfacing.
Let’s be clear, the decision to suspend the North Road Trial beyond the March 22 hard financial deadline set by West of England Combined Authority (WECA) through use of a Citizen’s Jury is down to the council executive allowing political interference in a strategic operational matter. The councillors overstepped their mark and Will Godfrey allowed it to happen.
We need separation of concerns
As of last year, the cabinet cannot control the narrative around Active Travel and delivery of politically divisive cycle infrastructure through budget manipulation.
Yes I know we said we’d prioritise walking and cycling in our manifesto, but we had more urgent priorities in our budget and did not have any spare money.Every cabinet member for finance ever.
Every year the council will be receiving potentially millions in funding for walking, wheeling, and cycling.
What this is spent on should be set within WECA’s LCWIP and enforced by the council’s executive with strong instructions from West of England Combined Authority. If the LCWIP is not up to the job, and ours certainly is a pile of poo and needs an urgent rewrite, then it is beholden upon the council’s executive, officers, and councillors to work with WECA’s officers to fix that.
Active Travel Funds cannot be used on schemes not identified in the LCWIP. No more political shenanigans.
No more begging
For years, campaigners would go to councillors and petition to have money allocated to walking and cycling. Just give us anything. Active Travel Funds and the imminent announcement of Active Travel England changes everything.
Our job now is to simply hold the executive, the council officers, and particularly the councillors to account. They just do not realise that this power dynamic has changed.
How it used to work
As an example of how badly this all plays out and why it is critical that ONLY LCWIP schemes are funded, let me take you back in time to 2015.
Walk Ride Bath, then Cycle Bath, put a supporting letter into the council to support their Cycle City Ambition Grant 2 bid that focused on delivery of these schemes developed by the council in partnership with Sustrans:
Six years later we ended up with a resurfaced towpath and a bridge that goes nowhere.
This happened due to no LCWIP and no political will to deliver strategically important difficult routes. It was either the case of spend the money on the Quays bridge or return it to the DfT. We compromised. This is the way. This has always been the way.
That Quays bridge is a symbol of complete failure of the council executive and the political machinery to deliver real change.
We wait. Active Travel England will take council officers to task in April 2022, through reductions in funding and require officers to be trained in how to deliver good cycle infrastructure.
Let’s be clear though, the fault lies with the executive allowing councillors to interfere with their officers’ strategic work. You never see road resurfacing interfered with? Installing cycle infrastructure and road resurfacing are the same side of the coin labelled “fixing sub-par roads”.
WECA’s role in all this
WECA LCWIPs will be re-written to provide the strategic road map that councils will follow including the absolutely vital missing strategic cycle maps. Hint: Oxfordshire’s LCWIP is amazing if you need something to base it on.
All Active Travel Fund schemes must be identified and be in the LCWIP and not at the political whim of whichever party is in charge. To this end WECA *MUST* facilitate an easy mechanism for a quarterly/yearly update to the LCWIP which must include public engagement.
To win the war we need to lose a few battles
Sadly, we are very much still controlled by the political narrative right now and I suspect ALL BaNES ATF Tranche 3 schemes to be in Bath, the power house of the Lib Dem administration. We will know by the 13th of October.
We’ve won…they just don’t realise it yet
For years, campaigners have been fighting to make our roads safe for kids to cycle to school on their own. The publication of LTN 1/20 Cycle Design Standards and the yearly provision of funding to councils with strict spending requirements completely changes the power dynamic.
It is now your job to hold your council to account and make sure they deliver good cycle infrastructure *as the government has instructed them to do*.
Just make sure it’s all in your authority’s LCWIP.