Cycling campaigners criticise DfT’s “self-fulfilling prophecy”

12.00 | 18 November 2013 | | 2 comments

The CTC has described a prediction by the DfT that over the next 25 years car use will increase while cycling will decrease, as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

The DfT’s National Transport Model (NTM) forecasts a 43% increase in car use by 2040, but a gradual fall in cycling after an increase over the next few years.

The CTC says that underlying the predicted increase in car use is the assumption that there will be “no change in Government policy beyond that already announced”.

Chris Peck, CTC spokesperson, said: “Traffic modelling is a dark art. Forecasting is tricky: feedback loops and unknown future changes can rapidly upset any firm conclusions about current trajectories.

“The problem, however, is that although the NTM is only supposed to be a guide to what might happen, it is treated by policy makers as the inevitable outcome that we must plan for.

“This is the ‘predict and provide’ approach that, in essence, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: your model predicts that car use will continue untrammelled, and further predicts huge congestion problems that might result.

“So, in order to prevent that congestion, you build new roads and plan new developments around everyone driving for 2/3rds of their trips and, decades later, hey presto: that’s what happens!”

The NTM figures have also been challenged by Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport at University College London, who told The Times: “It is not just that they got the numbers wrong, they got the direction of change wrong, which seems to me to be a much bigger problem. If it says it is going down when it is going up, there is something seriously wrong with the model.”

Roger Geffen, CTC policy director, said: “The self-fulfilling predictions of the National Transport Model are seriously undermining the case for quality cycle facilities. By assuming that motor traffic will increase massively while cycle use remains static, it ensures that councils’ computer programmes say ‘no’ to cycle facilities.”

Click here to read the full CTC report.


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    I agree with the statement below. So if the DfT are correct are we therefore to believe that all the billions of pounds spent on the promotion and segregation of cyclist in London and throughout the UK is going to be for nothing? Just like the introductions made over 15 years ago with the now ever present cycle lanes and the special spaces at traffic lights. Would it be called a flash in the pan?

    bob craven Lancs
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    Cars, trucks and motorbikes make vast quantities of money for the Exchequer (typically a 600% ROI) and so no government in their right mind would ever do anything to strangle off such a wealth generator. ‘Predict and provide’ has been a stunningly succesful way of growing the revenue generated from road transport as it models that as the population grows, so will the natural demand for cars grow at the same rate.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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