“There is no justification for the mass reallocation of road space to dedicated cycle lanes,” argues the Road Haulage Association (RHA), representing some 7,000 U.K. trucking companies. The Freight Transport Association, which represents air, rail, and sea haulage companies as well as road haulage, is also opposed to creating “pop-up” cycleways for the use of key workers and others during the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 27, the Department for Transport (DfT) wrote to English local authorities suggesting that “work can begin at pace on closing roads to through traffic, installing segregated cycle lanes and widening [sidewalks].”
£250 million of “Emergency Active Travel Funding” had been announced by the DfT earlier in May.
While the issue does not seem to afflict cycleway-laced Dutch cities, the RHA and FTA fear that the provision of protected space for cyclists in British cities will prevent member companies from making curbside deliveries.
“It is essential,” says the FTA, that the “needs of logistics businesses are taken into account when developing active travel plans,” fearing not just loss of curbside access but also that journey times might be “adversely affected.”
The RHA was more forceful in its complaints. “Dedicating space exclusively to one very small group of road users is an astoundingly wasteful use of a scarce resource,” says an RHA statement which recommends that the “reallocation of general road space for the exclusive use of cyclists should be excluded from the emergency procedures.”
The views of the RHA and the FTA count: both organizations have to be consulted by the U.K. government and local authorities when road rules are altered.
In a May 20 letter to the Director-General of Roads, Places and Environment at the DfT, the RHA’s director of public affairs Rod McKenzie said his organization has “serious concerns” about emergency measures being put in place to protect cyclists and pedestrians during the lockdown.
“The ability to move goods safely and efficiently is critical for everyone and all businesses,” he stated, adding that the government’s focus on encouraging cycling and walking was “faulty thinking.”
Given there’s only “limited available road space,” he added, “both passenger and freight transport needs must be considered together,” which can be considered code for “don’t take any space away from motorists.”
McKenzie stressed: “We are particularly concerned that the proposal to reduce road space will lead to delayed deliveries and increased congestion.”
This, he believes, “will adversely affect all businesses that are looking to restart.”
The U.K. government is to spend £90 billion on new roads and £2 billion on active travel such as walking and cycling yet McKenzie claims that “cycling is being disproportionately favored over other sectors.”
He laments: “Just 2.5% of trips nationally are made by bicycle.” (As Canadian city planner Brent Toderian often points out “it’s hard to justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river.”)
“Dedicating road space exclusively to one very small group is an astoundingly wasteful use of a scarce resource,” concludes McKenzie.
Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver Clive Matthews disputes the RHA’s claim that creating cycleways will induce traffic congestion:
“As an active HGV driver, I can tell the RHA that 99.9% of delays are due to dense motor vehicle traffic, poorly parked motor vehicles, motor vehicle crashes, and repairs to roads damaged by motor vehicles.”
Via email, Matthews adds: “I use a bicycle to get to work. My employers support this, as they’ve discovered that cyclists are better employees: lower sick rates and better stress handling. It also reduces the space they would otherwise need to supply for car parking.”
Matthews works for RaceTech of London, founded in 1946 and which carries broadcast equipment to and from horse race-courses. The company has a fleet of 74 trucks, some of which were on the move today, covering the Welcome Back British Racing Handicap at Gosforth Park in Newcastle as elite sport in England made its comeback after the coronavirus lockdown.