Predict and Provide. We’re doing it wrong.

Apparently one of The Times’s cycle safety campaign manifesto points is for 2% of the highways budget to be spent on cycling infrastructure.

Over the decades, transport policy has been characterised as “predict and provide”. How much traffic is there going to be in ten years? Do we have enough roads? No. So we build some more roads. End result, the volume of traffic expands to fill the road space available. Nature abhors a vacuum.

This philosophy has now pretty much run its course. Not many people now say “Our roads are full, let’s build more roads, that will fix the problem”.¬†Linking that back to the 2% of the roads budget going on cycling, why stop at 2%?

There is an opportunity to go for sustainable transport in a huge way simply by repurposing the discredited notion of predict and provide. We know that for cars, if the road infrastructure gets built then the traffic volume will grow to fill it to capacity (see also airports). Maybe it wouldn’t work the same way for bikes or even railways but I just wonder if there was someone at the Department for Transport with ability to lie through their teeth about their modelling and say “Our research suggests that by the end of the decade, 30% of all journeys under 5 miles will be made by bike, we need to put the infrastructure in place to meet that demand”… If we decide with no particular evidence that the demand is there…

If we build it, will they come?


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