Stop the “Endless Cycling” of consultation


These temporary, endless cycling lanes are visible in cities and towns across the UK. They serve as a symbol of our new way to live and act as a gateway to the city. We could see the future we talk about, a more healthy, climate-friendly London. Although it wasn’t surprising to see Transport for London leading the green transport agenda, it was pleasing to see less likely highway officials following suit.

The familiar stories started to appear in the paper, just as quickly as the night follows the day. Residents and politicians demanded the removal of temporary endless cycling lanes within their communities. The highway authority Badminton Alley failed to consult before installing temporary cycle lanes, was the rallying cry. In many cases, the status quo has been restored. It is almost as if the brief flirtation with cycle-friendly infrastructure never took place.

If the past is any indication, it’s possible that the bold vision of the Government may soon be swept away by the chaos of local consultation.

Consultation is an important and necessary step in the right direction for these four reasons:

Consultations can often be used to help decision makers identify the relevant considerations. This is a good thing, as a failure of relevant considerations could lead to a judicial review or quashing of the decision.

Sometimes, there will be a statutory obligation to consult. In other cases, the conduct of an authority may have created a “legitimate expectation” that it would consult on the proposals. A failure to consult in these situations, as mentioned above, may be considered a public law error that is liable for quashing.

If the Government is to achieve its endless cycling vision, this must be rectified. Let me be clear: I’m not advocating for poor endless cycling programs to continue. Endless cycling  programs can pose serious safety risks or cause real damage to towns centres and retailers. These people are already feeling more than their fair share in the current environment. It is evident that we do not give decision-makers the tools necessary to make these critical decisions. The following principles are the basis for a new national policy document on decisions regarding cycle schemes:

  • If possible, decision makers should approve cycle plans unless there are significant health risks.
  • These benefits include improved air quality and population health. Great weight should also be considered.
  • Harms can include safety concerns or loss of vitality in town centres.
  • It is not enough that a cycle program may have a negative effect on car travel times.