UK plan to boost cycling and walking ‘worthless without more funding’
The Guardian, 27 March 2016
The government’s cycling and walking investment strategy “won’t be worth the paper it’s written on” unless backed by sustained funding, cycling campaigners claim. The British Cycling policy adviser and 1992 individual pursuit Olympic champion Chris Boardman believes far more ambition is needed if Britain is to create a cycling and walking culture to rival countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.
His comments come as the government launched its blueprint to encourage more walking and cycling with the aim of boosting the number of people who get around by bike or on foot by 2040. Yet the ambition is backed by just £316m over the next five years, barely half the cost of upgrading Bank tube station in London. “Frankly it’s embarrassing,” said Boardman.
The funds available for both walking and cycling work out at just £1.38 per person in England outside London, according to the CTC, a national cycling charity. The CTC notes that the Department for Transport has set aside £15bn to upgrade motorways and trunk roads.
The transport minister Robert Goodwill insisted the plans would help the economy and cut congestion, while also improving health and air quality.
He said: “Realising our ambition will take sustained investment in cycling and walking infrastructure. That’s why we have committed over £300m to support cycling and walking over this parliament and this will increase further when spending on enhancing and maintaining existing infrastructure is taken into account.”
But the blueprint seems to acknowledge that the plan will only succeed if central government changes its attitude: “Realising this ambition will not only take sustained investment in cycling and walking infrastructure but also long-term transport planning and a change in attitudes amongst central government, local bodies, businesses, communities and individuals. Cycling and walking must be seen as transport modes in their own right and an integral part of the transport network,” the strategy warns.
British Cycling and the CTC are calling for the objectives and funding proposals in the draft strategy, issued on Sunday for consultation, to be strengthened.
They point to the parliamentary Get Britain Cycling report, which called for investment in cycling of at least £10 per person annually, rising to £20, in order to boost cycle use to 10% of trips by 2025, and to 25% by 2050.
British Cycling and CTC also claim that its target to double cycling trips by 2025 implies even lower growth outside London, especially after allowing for population growth. It would effectively boost cycle use from less than 2% of trips today to around 3.5%. Cycling makes up 19% of trips in Denmark and 27% in the Netherlands – where spending on cycling is around £24 per person annually.
Boardman said: “The truth is that without sustained funding, this strategy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. We know that when faced with other priorities like road maintenance, saving bus routes and new housing developments, cycling and walking will be put at the bottom of most councils’ to-do lists.”
CTC’s policy director Roger Geffen suggested that some of the motorway and trunk road budget should be moved towards cycling and walking.
The strategy merely repeats the existing pledge to spend £300m over five years, according to the cycling campaigner Carlton Reid.
The consultation ends on 23 May and the final strategy is to be published in the summer, when the government will also issue guidance to local bodies on developing local plans.
A new independent expert committee is to be set up by October 2016 to help advise and implement the strategy.