Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, has accused Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne of yesterday delivering “a disastrous budget which focuses on short term gains to get popular support.” While cutting fuel duty as a sop to motorists the Chancellor also cut tax relief for "biking breakfasts" one of the methods used by organisations to tempt new cycle commuters to give riding to work a try.
In an angry statement Sustrans went on to say that “his measures to reduce and limit the cost of fuel mean that once again we are incentivising people to use their cars while failing to offer alternatives that would provide a transport lifeline to poorer households without access to a car.”
There was no mention in the chancellor’s speech of the Cycle 2 Work scheme. No news hopefully means good news, with independent think-tank the Office for Tax Simplification, set up by the government last year, recently recommending that it be retained.
However, Sustrans maintains that the budget represented a blow to efforts to encourage people to switch from cars to more sustainable forms of travel.
“Mr Osborne has missed a golden opportunity to invest the £2bn from the oil companies in providing alternatives to car travel,” said Sustrans Police Advisor, Jason Torrance.
“People are now being encouraged to drive in a 1970s’ dream that could soon evaporate with a change in the price of oil.
“Sadly he has delivered the budget from behind the steering wheel of a Ford Focus and turned his back on an opportunity to provide alternatives to car use and much needed support to those suffering from the high cost of fuel.
“We do ourselves no favours by continuing to ignore the obvious – oil is a finite resource and will become unaffordable long before it finally dries up,” insisted Mr Torrance.
“Unless we invest in low carbon alternatives to car use we are facing a divide in society with the majority of people living in transport poverty,” he concluded.
National cyclists’ organisation CTC focused on plans to withdraw tax benefits for cycle to work breakfasts, as recommended in the Office for Tax Simplification report.
Campaigns director Roger Geffen told the trade website BikeBiz: “The Government is looking at withdrawing the tax-deductable Cycle to Work breakfast, and is entering a period of consultation.
“So on the one hand the Government has subsidised fuel for cars, but on the other it is looking to withdraw fuel for cyclists. Cycle to Work breakfasts were used by a local authorities and government departments, as well as a number of employers.
"This is a Government that has said it encourages people to cycle, but so far it has abolished Cycling England and now this – withdrawing an initiative they helps employers to encourage employees to cycle to work - it's usually very popular during Bike Week.
"It's time the Government encouraged people to get cycling to work – and was seen to be doing so."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.