Our columnist Robin Heydon explains his problem with how the A10 improvements have been planned
Following up on the A10 study, one person I chatted to last week suggested that I had missed something.
The problem is that all the benefits of these schemes are based on the travel time improvements.
This means that if you build a dual carriageway that allows traffic to move faster between junctions then this is considered a good thing.
If you also build a cycleway that enables more people to safely ride a cycle to work, or a friend’s house, then this is typically not valued at all.
I re-read part of the report and yes, it was there.
The improvements to cycling decreased the time required to cycle from Waterbeach to Cambridge by a minute.
This minuscule improvement was therefore mostly ignored. This is crazy.
It is crazy for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, if more people can ride cycles safely on improved cycleways then there are fewer people driving. However, the increased traffic speeds due to this modal shift are not attributed to that cycle infrastructure.
Secondly, if more people ride cycles then these people will be fitter, healthier, and more productive. This is a huge benefit for society from decreasing healthcare costs to increasing company productivity.
Unfortunately, those benefits are not in the control of the Department for Transport, but would be attributed to the Department of Health, or the Department for Business (or whatever that department is called this week).
Therefore the DfT doesn’t care about such benefits. This means that the actual benefits of such schemes is significantly undervalued. It is all about speeding up traffic and not about what kind of life we want to lead.
This has another significant side effect.
Because the DfT only values travel times, it over-prioritizes reduced car journey times.
This is part of the reason why pedestrian crossings take forever to change even though only a couple of cars are driving down the road, because the DfT cares very much about reducing delays to drivers and very little about people who choose to walk or cycle.
This also means that it is apparently better to delay lots of people from walking across a road because of the odd car driving along that road.