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Painting white lines on roads has cost millions without making cycling safer, experts tell UK government

The government has been accused of wasting public money on inadequate cycling infrastructure.

Image: Shutterstock/Tupungato

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT has wasted hundreds of millions of pounds by painting white lines on busy roads and labelling them “cycle lanes”, according to Britain’s cycling and walking commissioners. 

Painted cycle lines – where cyclists are segregated from cars and other vehicles simply by using a line on a road – are only a “gesture” and have done nothing to make cyclists feel safer, the commissioners have said in a letter to UK transport secretary Chris Grayling, The Guardian reports.

The commissioners, who include former Olympic champions Chris Boardman and Dame Sarah Storey, said current policies were “wasting public money and failing to persuade people to change their travel habits”. 

The commissioners are responsible for developing policy ideas for improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure across UK towns and cities.

The most recent academic research on cycle lanes suggests that simply painting a white line on a road is not enough to protect cyclists – instead greater investment in buffer zones or physical barriers to protect cyclists from drivers is needed. 

In Ireland, cyclists have long called for better infrastructure and greater funding from the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport. One major source of frustration for campaigners has been the blocking of cycle lanes by drivers – in recent months both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have supported taking action on the issue. 

The commissioners are calling for a government re-think when it comes to transport planning and investment. The current approach taken by the UK Treasury, the letter states, has led to ”systemic undervaluation and underinvestment in sustainable transport”. 

The commissioners have made a number of recommendations, including asking the UK government to fund road danger reduction measures by using revenue from penalty notices for traffic offences. 

“It’s tragic that hundreds of millions of pounds of government money has been spent on substandard cycling and walking infrastructure,” said Boardman, who is the commissioner for Greater Manchester. 

“If national government were to adopt these asks we’d be on a winning streak and could truly transform Britain’s towns and cities, not to mention massively improving air quality and health,” he said. 

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