Survey highlights the barriers to investing in cycling infrastructure

Barriers to investing in cycling

The University of Cambridge has published the results from its recent survey that looked at the barriers to investing in cycling. People targeted by the survey included: local government highways officers; local politicians; Local Enterprise Partnerships; cycling advocates; academics; consultants; and businesses with an interest in cycling.

The main barriers uncovered by the survey come as no surprise:

  1. Funding issues
  2. Lack of political leadership
  3. Lack of support within local authority highways departments

Funding tends to be scarce, sporadic and involves competitive bidding, with the lion’s share going to the cities. This creates a postcode lottery for cycling investment and makes it difficult for local authorities to make long-term plans. Also, the competitive element creates a barrier to sharing expertise between councils.

The survey suggests that there is little political support for cycling at either the national or local levels, with a few notable exceptions, such as the London Mayor. The general picture is one where priority is still given to providing for motor vehicles. It seems that politicians still don’t see cycling as a viable mainstream transport option. In fact, schemes are often compromised by local councillors who are worried about anything that may cause additional delay for motor vehicles.

The survey results also paint a rather gloomy picture amongst those tasked with delivering cycling schemes on the ground. Cuts to council budgets have meant that most local authorities have had to restructure and reduce their staff. In smaller local authorities, cycling is usually a small part of one officer’s role, who has to fight to get their voice heard amongst colleagues.

When asked about the solutions that could overcome these barriers, the most popular answers were:

  • Ring-fenced, long-term funding for cycling
  • High-level political support at national and local levels to drive through changes

Respondents felt that tackling the funding and political support issues would in turn encourage local authority highway departments to give more priority to cycling.

The survey results emphasise how important it is for local people and campaign groups like Spokes to lobby for change and to make the case for investing in cycling. So what can you do to help?

  1. Let us know what cycling schemes would make a difference to your local journeys, so we can raise it at the Cycle Forum
  2. Let your local councillor know that you support increased investment in cycling
  3. Add your name to the national Space for Cycling campaign

How to Keep Your Bike Secure


One of our members contacted us recently to report that their bike had been stolen. As well as the obvious inconvenience and financial cost associated with losing a bike, it can be very upsetting, particularly if it is stolen from your home.  However, the good news is there are steps that you can take to prevent the theft from occurring in the first place, and to increase the chances of being reunited with your bike in the event that it is stolen.

It is vital that you register your bike with an on-line database such as Bike Register or Immobilise.  The basic service is free and allows the police to check the frame number of any bike that is stolen and subsequently recovered to identify its owner.  You can pay to receive an electronic tag or tamper-resistant label with a unique QR code that can be scanned.  This can deter thieves from stealing the bike in the first place and alerts the police to check the database. You can also pay for permanent etching kits for additional piece of mind.

We would also recommend that you insure your bike(s). Low value bikes are often covered as part of household insurance policies when stored at home. However, you may need to increase your cover, or take out a separate policy to get cover outside the home, or to insure more expensive bikes. If you intend to take your bikes abroad, then you will need to check that your policy will cover this. Also, if you live in a block of flats with a communal bike store, it is worth checking that the bikes will be covered if left in these areas. You can use an on-line price comparison website to compare prices and cover.

Make sure that you take reasonable steps to secure your bike. Buy a good quality lock – preferably two. We recommend that you buy a lock with a Sold Secure Gold or Silver rating. D-locks are popular and can be used with extender chains. However, these locks can be heavy and cumbersome to carry, but there are alternatives available. For example, the HIPLOK is a heavy duty chain that loops around your waist. Alternatively, a Dutch-style horseshoe lock and extender chain offers a neat solution. Be sure to lock your bike whenever you leave it, including at home.

When leaving your bike, make sure you attach it to a bike stand or item of street furniture that cannot be easily broken, cut, or moved, or where your bike could be lifted clear. Try to choose a well-lit area with CCTV coverage. It is best to choose an area where other people are around and are frequently walking past – never leave it in an isolated place.  Wheels are an easy target for thieves, particularly where they have quick release skewers. When locking your bike, make sure that you secure both wheels and the frame to the bike stand, and if you are going to leave your bike in a public place on a regular basis, then consider fitting security skewers or skewer locks such as those made by Quick Caps.


Be Bright – Be Safe – Be Seen

Now that the clocks have gone back, it’s getting dark earlier and that has an impact on cyclists.

On average over the last 5 years, the number of cyclists injured after dark on Berkshire’s roads shoots up from 20 in September to 40 in October and 59 in November.

It’s important for cyclists to be visible in order to stay safe and that means lights, reflectors and hi-viz. The law requires cyclists to have lights front and back, a red reflector at the back and amber pedal reflectors. If you’re caught by the police cycling on the roads after dark without lights an reflectors then you could be liable for a £30 fine.

There is a bewildering array of lights on the market, so if you’re after a bit of advice, then check the Spokes Guide to Bike Lights. Also, remember that Spokes members get 10% off lights and hi-viz clothing at local bike shops!


Cycling Treasure Hunt

Thatcham_NDSIf you are looking for something to do with your kids during the half-term break, then get on your bikes and get down to the Nature Discovery Centre, which is located off Lower Way in Thatcham. West Berkshire Council is organising a Halloween Treasure Hunt on 31 October between 10am and 2pm.

Collect a map and cycle off to find the pumpkins hidden in various locations around Thatcham. The route makes the most of quiet roads and cycle paths around the town. Make sure that you return to the Discovery Centre by 3pm to collect your reward. For more information about the treasure hunt, please contact Caroline Lane (


Bike Loan Scheme

This week, we collected the first three bikes for deployment on our new bike loan scheme. These will go on long-term loan to children in West Berkshire who otherwise would not have access to a bike. We are also providing helmets and locks to make sure that they have everything that they need.

Big thanks to Paul Black at the Community Furniture Project for his hard work and to Ian McDonald for the donation that made it all possible. We hope to loan out more bikes in the coming weeks and months.