Cycling instructors have accused Transport for London of ‘breaking promises’ after it quietly suspended funding for councils to deliver cycle training.
TfL’s decision to immediately and indefinitely cut the funding – a result of the body’s ongoing financial crisis and reliance on short-term government bailouts – may affect the jobs of around 300 cycling instructors, who provide training to children in schools and on holiday courses, as well as to adults.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represents cycling instructors, revealed that every local authority in London has been informed by TfL that no money will be provided for cycle training “until September at least”. With the funding apparently suspended “until further notice”, there is currently no guarantee that it will return in the autumn.
“So what is likely to happen is the courses and training to happen over July, August and September, they may get cancelled. And no new courses may get booked – and we as instructors will be paying the price,” Suami Rocha, a cycling instructor and secretary of IWGB’s Cycling Instructors’ Branch, told the Islington Tribune.
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Rocha, who claims that cycle instructors are the latest “victim” in a political battle between TfL and the Department for Transport, also told the Evening Standard: “On the hottest day on record, cycling instructors are hearing news that the Mayor of London and TfL are pouring fuel on the fire of climate change by cutting this essential training and green jobs.
“If they were serious about hitting the environmental goals they have laid out, they would be increasing funding for this green alternative, not completely decimating it.”
Islington cycle instructor Rocha expressed his disappointment that a pledge made earlier this year by TfL’s cycling commissioner Will Norman that “cycle training would remain a priority” now appears to have been broken. He also called on control of cycle training funding to pass from TfL to Active Travel England.
“We want to highlight the fact that the government has promised to provide cycle training to every child and adult,” he said.
“TfL is denying Londoners that opportunity and we want to call them out on their broken promise.”
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Last October, the IWBG organised a group ride from Trafalgar Square to City Hall to protest TfL’s decision to half the budget for school cycle training provision for the fourth quarter of 2021.
The union also pointed out at the time that instructors – who have been subject to a pay freeze for 12 years, equivalent to a 30 per cent pay cut – are facing falls in income, as well as sudden job losses and what it describes as unfair cancellation policies.
In a letter co-signed by Haringey Labour Climate Action, Haringey and Enfield COP26 Coalition, Unite Community Enfield, Unite Housing Workers, and Enfield Trade Unionist coalition, the IWGB called on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander to reverse the cut in funding.
It also pointed out that in the Gear Change document published the year before, the government promised that every person in England in need of cycle training would be entitled to receive it.
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Transport for London has said that the latest cuts to cycle training provision in the capital are a direct result of the body’s precarious financial situation.
“Our last funding deal with Government ended on 24 June,” a TfL spokesperson said in a statement. “The short-term extensions that have been agreed since then have come with no further funding and only allow us to run public transport services and meet existing contractual commitments.
“As a result, we have had to pause work in a number of areas until further notice, including borough face-to-face cycle training and other vital work to make London’s streets safer.
“Unfortunately, we will only be able to restart this funding to boroughs when sufficient investment is secured in our negotiations with the Government.”