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

Give us your thoughts on ‘quick win’ schemes for cyclists

Cheap Street, Newbury - cyclists exempt from banned right turn

Often, little changes can make a big difference for cyclists – for example, exempting them from a banned right turn, or providing a contra-flow in a one-way street.  These schemes can create useful short-cuts and help to make cycling safer and more attractive for local journeys.

West Berkshire Council has told us that there is money available in this year’s budget for small schemes like these and has asked us for suggestions. Ideas so far include:

  1. In Newbury, allow cyclists to turn right into Cheap Street from Market Street.  This would help cyclists travelling from West Fields to Sainsbury’s and Hambridge Road.
  2. Formally designate Newbury Town Centre as a ‘Pedestrian and Cycle Zone’. Although cycling is already allowed in Bartholomew Street and Northbrook Street, existing signs are confusing.
  3. Where possible, exempt cyclists from one-way restrictions on roads in and around Newbury town centre.
  4. Put direction arrows in each lane on the St John’s Road approach to the Burger King roundabout in Newbury. This would reinforce that the middle lane is for straight ahead movements only. Increasingly, motorists are turning left from the middle lane, which goes against Rule 186 of the Highway Code. This results in cyclists being cut up when they are travelling from St Johns Road to Greenham Road.

If you can think of a small change that would make a big difference to your journey, then please let us know. We can’t promise that they will all see the light of day, since each scheme will be subject to a safety audit and appropriate consultation, but we’re happy to pass on ideas for consideration.


Canal and River Trust seeks your views on towpath use and possible traffic calming

Towpath sign

Our canal towpath network represents an incredible recreational resource that is enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. The Kennet and Avon is an excellent case in point, since it is used by cyclists, walkers, runners, boaters, anglers, canoeists, and even the odd horse pulling craft along the water.

Having so many different activities in close proximity means that people must share the space considerately if they are going to get along. Unfortunately, there is always the odd inconsiderate person who upsets the delicate balance of give and take, and recently there have been reports of runners and cyclists charging along canal towpaths at top speed in order to set the best link times on Strava.

The Canal and River Trust has tried to respond to the problem by creating the Towpath Code, which clearly states that cyclists should slow down and give way to pedestrians and other waterway users. This has been promoted through the ‘Share the Space, Drop Your Pace’ campaign.

However, this has not been sufficient to completely eradicate the problem and in some places the Trust has carried out trails of speed reducing features such as speed bumps and chicanes in an effort to make the code self-enforcing. Unfortunately, these have the potential to cause additional problems, particularly for wheelchair and pushchair users. They also create hazards for users who may not be expecting them, particularly when using towpaths at night.

In order to get a better understanding of the extent of the problem and to identify possible solutions, the Trust has decided to carry out a survey of towpath users.  This asks:

  • how you currently use the towpath network
  • if you have had any negative experiences whilst using the network (e.g. crashes, near misses, or confrontations)
  • whether or not you use technology to track your speed when using towpaths
  • your impressions of how fast people generally travel on towpaths
  • your thoughts on chicanes, barriers and any other potential speed reducing features

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and by giving your views, you will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three £50 Wiggle vouchers. The consultation runs until 20 January.


What parents need to know about buying children’s bikes at Christmas

Chidren's bikes

Although sometimes it seems as though every kid just wants the latest games console, tablet or smartphone, bikes are still a popular Christmas present.  At Spokes, we would always recommend that you buy from your local bike shop (remember Spokes members get 10% discount on new bikes). They have the best products, they can advise you about the correct size bike for your child, they will assemble it and carry out safety checks, and they will set up the bike correctly for you. They will also offer a free 6 week check and make any adjustments after the bike has gone through its initial bedding-in period.

However, we recognise that many parents will still look to on-line retailers or places like Argos, Tesco and Halfords to get their bikes. The disadvantage of buying from these places is that the bike will require an element of self-assembly, or at best will have been hastily put together by a harassed shop assistant. As a result, we have seen many bikes that have been assembled incorrectly and in some cases, they have been in a condition that puts the child at risk of serious injury.

Some of the faults that we have seen include:

  • Forks put on back to front.
  • Loose handlebars and stems.
  • Wheels not properly secured.
  • Tyres not properly seated on the rims.
  • Tyres on the wrong way round.
  • Brakes blocks misaligned / rubbing.
  • Brakes not engaging properly when pulled.
  • Brake levers not at the correct angle.
  • Pedals cross-threaded (remember the left pedal has a reverse thread!)
  • Loose / misaligned saddles.
  • Poorly indexed gears.

The good news is that these can easily be checked and sorted before your child gets on the bike. There is a wealth of information, advice and step-by-step videos available on-line at However, if you still have concerns about the safety of your child’s bike, then we would suggest that you take it to your local bike shop. They can check it for you and advise about any repairs / work that needs to be carried out.


Hermitage to Hampstead Norreys Cycle Route

One of our long-standing aspirations has been to reopen the former railway line to the north of Newbury to make it available for cyclists and other non-motorised users. Although some sections have been built on, much of the track bed and bridges remain in tact and would be an easy conversion. We have been focusing our efforts on the section between Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys, as this offers the greatest potential. Over the last year or so, we have engaged with stakeholders, including West Berkshire Council, landowners and parish councillors, and we are pleased to report that good progress is now being made.

Previously the scheme had been held up by a land ownership issue of a small parcel of land to the south of the M4 bridge at Hermitage. The landowners, Highways England, have now agreed a way forward to allow public access by way of a permitted path instead of transferring ownership to West Berkshire Council. The Section 18 Order has been signed to stop up the highway, and the council are waiting for Highways England’s service providers, Kier, to approve the design and specification under a Section 6 Agreement.

All going well, construction is programmed for next year. The first part of the scheme will be a new footway on the eastern verge of the B4009 to provide safe passage for all users (pedestrian, equestrian, and cyclists) under the M4 bridge and to connect the disused railway track on both sides. Englefield Estate, the landowner for this section, are supportive of the scheme but have surveyed the railway path and presented a number of conditions regarding maintenance and tree survey work before agreeing to a lease for the permissive path. Talks are ongoing with the council’s Countryside and Rights of Way Team over maintenance agreements but we will hopefully get an agreement in place before too long.

External funding is still required to undertake necessary improvements throughout the route before it opens to the public. This includes: making the bridges safe; carrying out localised repairs to the track; and erecting new sections of fencing. We are hopeful that bids to cover the shortfall will be successful. As we move forward with the scheme, we will be asking for volunteers to help clear vegetation from the old railway line. If you would like to be involved, then please email us at