With the Cycling England plug pulled, what's going down the plughole?

We ask Britain's Cycling Towns (and City) … what now for cycling in your town

by Mark Appleton   March 31, 2011  

Cycle lane

As the clock winds down on the last hours of Cycling England, so too the funding stream to its Cycling Towns and Bristol, the sole Cycling City, is about to come to an end.

But what does that loss of funding mean for those communities which have benefitted from the millions of pounds provided to them to promote cycling and build cycling infrastructure? road.cc got on the phone this week and asked precisely that question  to all 18 of them here's what we've found out so far. Council press office response times can vary and if there isn't a response here from your local council yet it's not because we haven't asked.

Emma Bullard the Cycling Promotion officer at Shrewsbury Council told us that as far as their activities are concerned, essentially three and a third roles would be disappearing.

They comprised two positions for employees seconded from elsewhere in the council and a Bike It officer “bought in” from Sustrans together with another role shared with sports and health promotion.

“Where the big impact will be is on infrastructure,” said Emma. “At the moment, apart from our Connect2 money, we don’t have access to a separate cycling infrastructure budget so that means that our infrastructure will get improved at a slower rate than it might otherwise have done.”

In Aylesbury the Cycle Town team will be reduced but will stay in place promoting cycling and walking in the town. A spokesman told us: “We haven't got any plans to build infrastructure in the town itself as we are waiting for developer contribution funding to come forward on that and we are also waiting to hear about our local sustainable transport funding bid in June.

"We are going to redeploy one member of the cycling team of three but for now we will still be able to run a full programme of activities.

A spokesman for Cambridge County Council said: "The Cycle Town team here is perhaps structured differently to elsewhere in that it is part of an existing transport infrastructure delivery team. So there will not really be a major affect as we will be looking at other income streams to replace the Cycling England funding.

"We will, of course, have to cut our cloth according to a new budget but there will still be a team delivering major transport infrastructure projects. Just because the Cycling England money ends it doesn't mean that people will lose their jobs the next day."

As far as Exeter is concerned, Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, told us: "Despite the withdrawal of funding from the Department for Transport at the end of March, Devon County Council is committed to developing and delivering its cycling strategy and investing in cycling in both Exeter and across the county.

"An annual budget of £250,000 is available for walking and cycling schemes in the Exeter area. Some of this will be used to help create a linking route from the new Redhays Bridge to the city centre. The Council has also committed funding to completing the Exe Estuary Trail project.

"In addition to this the Council has secured a £240,000 grant from the Department for Transport to deliver Bikeability Cycle Training to 6000 year 6 children across Devon.
"There is also the possibility of securing new Department for Transport funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to allow the Council to continue working with key employers, schools and communities to promote cycling, walking, car sharing and using public transport, both in Exeter and across Devon."

Lancaster was launched as a Cycling Demonstration Town (CDT) in February 2006 and the project will come to a close on 31 March.

The Cycling Demonstration Town Team funded by Cycling England has been disbanded. The team comprised of a project manager (revenue), a project manager (capital) and a workplace cycling officer.

A statement from the Council said: “Unfortunately Lancaster City Council (as a district council) has no direct remit to deliver transport projects such as the CDT project. However we will continue to work in partnership with Lancashire County Council (as highway authority) and other organisations to look at ways in which we can keep some aspects of the project going.”

Darlington Council told us: “We are in the process of submitting a bid for funding from the Government’s new Local Sustainable Transport Fund. If successful, money from this fund will enable us to continue the successful work we have already begun as part of the Cycling Demonstration and Sustainable Travel Town projects, as well as start work on new projects on sustainable transport.

"Funding is in place to continue a number of projects until the LSTF bid decision is made. If our LSTF bid is unsuccessful we will still have our Local Transport Plan budget and some European funding. We are also looking at the possibility of bidding for more European funding.”

A spokeswoman for York Council said: "The end of the Cycling City York funding will have an impact, but this has been very much softened by the announcement of the LSTF funding. However, one or two projects or areas of work have folded due to the gap in funding.

"The Cycling City York team was largely made up of existing staff. Whilst the funding allocation from Cycling England has now ended, we are working on the LSTF bid for York in the hope that it will allow us to continue some aspects of programme, as well as carrying out work to promote and encourage the use of other forms of sustainable transport, including travel planning for organisations.

"As with the Cycling City York programme, the LSTF requires match funding. City of York Council's Local Transport Plan capital, as well as its existing staff resource, will be the main element of this.

"If York is successful, it will mean we can do even more to improve our existing cycling facilities. We'll do our best not to lose momentum and will try to lessen the impact of the end of the Cycling City York programme as much as possible until later this year when the DfT announce the results of the first round of LSTF bids."

Steve Lakin of Go Cycle Leighton Linslade told us:  "I'm keen that the public see us as continuing to be a Cycle Town. I'm confident we will secure some funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, so there will be a comprehensive programme of activities going on in future.  We will, however, lose a project officer and a schools officer post so we will go from three-and-a-half posts down to one-and-a-half.

"Our infrastructure work will continue as there is quite a lot of growth going on in the town so people will continue to see cycling infrastructure being built here."

Pete Price, assistant director of technical services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: "The funding received by Stoke-on-Trent City Council enabled a dedicated team to be employed for the life of the project to promote cycling.

"We are in the process of looking to secure additional funds from the government to continue the promotion of cycling in the city. Recently, the council received £110,000 to continue its bikeability cycle training for the next four years including cycle training at schools and also the provision of 50 cycling confidence camps at various other locations across Stoke-on-Trent.

"Prior to the Cycling England funding the city council also had an officer working to develop cycling and this position will remain unaffected by the Cycling England funding cuts. Stoke-on-Trent also has two Bike It Officers and these roles will continue until July 2011."

Cycling will continue to play a big part in the transport strategy for Bristol, Cycling England's only designated Cycling City - which received £22m pounds worth of investment money for cycling in the form of £11m from Cycling England with another £11m in match funding from the council. One mark of the current city administration's commitment to cycling is that the Cycling City team will be kept on to help further promote cycling in the city and to help promote Bristol as a cycling city "I see Bristol staying as a Cycling City and it will be something we use in all our statements about the city," Councillor Jon Rogers, head of the Cycling City project told road.cc.

Although funding levels will not match those of the last two years, according to project manager, Ed Plowden, that cash was always viewed as a one off windfall that would enable Bristol City Council, and its partner in South Gloucestershire, to push things ahead by spending money on bigger ticket infrastructure projects that would have had to be built piecemeal under more normal funding levels. To that end Bristol spent much of it's Cycling England money joining up bits of existing routes in to the centre and creating new ones. That has already seen a big jump in the number of Bristol cyclists.

The plan now is to carry on with this work and create orbital routes linking the radial routes coming out of the city centre and make it easier to move around the outskirts of the city by bike. Bristol will also be investing in signage, and in 'corridor marketing' to the people who live along the newly created routes to let them know what's there. Last week the Cycling City project was given an extra £60,000 by central government to spend on installing more cycling contra-flows in the city centre, and signage in South Gloucestershire.

This year Bristol will be spending between £1 to £1.5m on cycling infrastructure in the city - including buying up strips of land to run the Bristol - Bath bike path right in to Temple Meads station currently it's forced to take a slightly roundabout route on the approach to the station. Bristol is also preparing some substantial joint bids, together with surrounding local authorities, for money from the DfT's new Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

According to cllr Rogers cycling in Bristol does enjoy cross party support (despite what some Conservative councillors might say at election time to the local media) and is firmly entrenched within the city's transport strategy and most importantly for cyclists in the minds of those that implement that strategy particularly in the highways department. There is also an acceptance amongst politicians of all parties that transport issues cannot be dealt with over the course of one electoral cycle that it's a decades long process.

"We are on a course now that is going to deliver a completely different feel about Bristol in 10, 20, 30 years time, which will not be nearly so car dependent it will encourage people to use public sustainable transport and walk and cycle and will make it pleasant and friendly to do so."

Cycling England gave 18 English local authorities Cycling Town status and the cash to back it up to find out what could be achieved if investment in cycling was pushed up to something approaching the levels enjoyed in other European countries. That process began with an initial six Cycling Towns in 2005: Aylesbury, Brighton and Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster with Morecambe which were given £7m of funding between them. In 2008 they were joined by an additional 11 towns: Blackpool, Cambridge, Colchester, Chester, Leighton-Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend, Southport, Stoke-on-Trent, Woking and York., and one city – Bristol with the Government stumping up a further £140m. Although these were extremely modest amounts of funding (in real terms the sort of cash a council might spend on the feasibility study for a new road) the results the money achieved were remarkably cost effective, not even the ministers that cut Cycling England disagreed on that.