What makes a cycling strategy

Boris Johnson

My vision is rather good, chaps

A mere 5 weeks after it has been published, this week I finally got around to reading what seems to be the superstar of the transport strategy world at the moment: London Mayor Boris Johnson’s Vision for Cycling in London. That’s what being busy and being knocked out for a week with illness will do for you.

There has been quite a lot of debate across the blogosphere about the new strategy, with most being at least cautiously supportive of it. There are far too many good posts to list them all, but some good ones as a starter are those by David Arditti, Mark Treasure, John Dales, and Mark Ames. Yes, I know most of the examples I have given are cycle bloggers, but (a) they are bloody good analyses in their own right, and (b) who else is going to comment most on a cycling strategy?

Much of the comment thus far has been about strategy content – what it says and whether Transport for London and the Mayor actually mean to deliver the vision set out. But do nice words in a document a good strategy maketh? Clearly not, but if not then what does make a good strategy, and is Boris’ vision any good?

Now having worked in transport strategy for the better part of a decade, most people would assume that I know what the rules are for making a good transport strategy. I certainly know how not to write a transport strategy. You could pay me to write a Cycling Strategy within a day, but I can tell you now it will be based upon some research, my own knowledge, objectives I can write in my sleep, and no consultation – far from an exemplar strategy. But to be honest there are no hard-and-fast rules for writing the perfect strategy. Probably the closest I have seen is Sir Gus O’Donnells Ten Commandments of Good Policy Making, a fantastic read from 3 decades of experience in the Civil Service.

Having said all of this, I do believe that there are a number of guiding principles that make for a quality transport strategy that sets out a clear vision, and above all achieves it – or at least comes bloody close to it. After several attempts at knocking one together, I don’t feel that I can do the analysis of the Mayor’s Cycling Vision any justice with just one post. So over the course of this week, I will publish several posts covering these principles, which are:

  • What you want to achieve guides all
  • You can’t do it all on your own
  • You can’t solve every problem
  • Strategy commitment is defined when it is challenged
  • A strategy is not a document

The first post will be posted up later today, and at the end of the week I’ll try and tie it all together with some concluding thoughts on the vision. So, here goes…

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