The UK’s Department for Transport has a good minister for cycling, albeit one shackled by having little real power, and a small number of committed civil servants with cycling’s best interests at heart. However, it’s inescapable that – aside from the officials involved with the vanity project that is HS2 – the Department for Transport is, in fact, the Department for Motorised Road Transport.
In his 1981 book, Transport Planning Vision and practice John Adams said roughly the same:
“Some of the organizations that like [pro-motoring MPs’] policy implications are fairly obvious: those who make cars, those who build roads, those who sell petrol, and so on. But the most important of the organizations that can be presumed to like both the forecasts and their policy implications is the Department of Transport. It is primarily a department of road transport and contains within its ranks large numbers of people whose working lives have been devoted to planning the expansion of the country’s road network. Despite the fact that civil servants are supposed to be the servants of their political masters it would clearly be unreasonable to expect of them an overnight conversion to policies that called a halt to this expansion or, even worse, that implied that it had been misguided.”
We’re waiting on tenterhooks for the announcement of which cities get to share £42m to spend on cycling (the announcement is late, postponed because of the Woolwich murder). In the meantime, the Office of Active Travel has been quietly killed off and last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review gave billions to road building and did not mention walking or cycling, even in passing.
A PDF poster featuring of all the main MPs and officials at the Department for Transport has the strap line:
“Our vision is for a transport system that is an engine for economic growth, but one that is also greener, safer and improves quality of life in our communities.”
Greener? With road building at its core, the DfT can never be truly green. Car culture is deeply embedded in Britain and the Department for Motorised Road Transport has zero desire to change this culture. That’s what we’re up against.