Transport Minister Norman Baker announces £62 million investment in cycling
£30 million available for cities to bid on to improve facilities, £9 million will see 40 per cent more railway cycle parking spaces
Minister for Transport Norman Baker will today announce how £62 million in funding for cycling will be spent, including £30 million that will be made available for cities in England to bid on to improve cycling infrastructure. The money is additional to a planned major investment in cycling Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are expected to announce in the coming weeks.
Some £9 million of the money - £7.5 million from the Department for Transport and £1.5 million from train operating companies – is being set aside for 20,000 cycle parking spaces at railway stations this is part of an overall £15 million that will be spent on schemes throught the Community Linking Places Fund which aims to increase community cycling (Govt-speak for cycling in the community we presume) and cycle-rail integration.
Part of this spending will see the number of such spaces at train stations rise by 40 per cent to 70,000 as Mr Baker, whose responsibilities include cycling and local transport, seeks to encourage people to engage in ‘joined-up’ sustainable transport. There will also be the green light is being given for funding towards a new £500,000 cycle hub at Brighton station offering 500 new cycle parking spaces, cycle hire, changing facilities and a cycle repair workshop. There will also be cycle hubs at Redhill, Upminster, Nottingham and Leicester stations which will see hundreds of new cycle parking places and bikes for hire, plus a high quality cycle route network promised for Leeds city centre.
Rural areas such as national parks will receive £12 million in funding and another £5 million will be added to the fund for improving the most dangerous junctions. By far the largest tranche of cash announced today though, £30 million, will go to urban areas - specifically to improve cycling with up to three cities invited to bid for a slice of the cash. Speaking at the official announcement of the extra cash Mr Baker said that only cities with 'city deal' status would be eligible to apply. So far eligible cities include Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham, but more cities are expected to have the necessary status by the time the bidding process starts.
The Department for Transport also point out that many of the schemes this money will help fund will also attract local investment too, making the total value of the package far higher than £62 million.
In his official announcement of the funding Mr Baker said: "We are serious about cycling, as this latest wave of funding shows. We have already seen how schemes can quickly deliver economic and environmental benefits, as well as improving public health.
"Anyone who rides a bike will know it is important to keep the impetus going and this record level of funding will provide a shot in the arm to cycling in England.
"Our ambition is to get people cycling more safely and more often and today’s announcements will help us to make that vision a reality."
Speaking to The Times ahead of today’s announcement, Mr Baker said: “This is the biggest ever daily investment in cycling."
“The centrepiece of the package will be a new fund for cities outside London to improve their cycling infrastructure. Mr Baker said that he expected to receive submissions by the summer.
“We are keen to get a move on. The intention is to spend it as soon as possible,” he added, with cities looking to get a slice of the cash invited to tender their bids by this summer.
Responding to news of the investment, Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, said: "Additional funding for cycling networks is urgently needed and we warmly welcome this new funding initiative from Government.
“Sustrans is very pleased to have the opportunity to use our expertise to help local authorities deliver safer roads, junctions and routes across the country, particularly in sometimes-overlooked rural areas.
“Creating high quality cycling paths that increase travel choices is a key element in the overarching plan to get Britain cycling and turn us into a healthier, more productive and more mobile nation.
“With continuing political leadership, better funding and improved infrastructure, we can transform travel by providing real choices over how people can get around and ensure cycling and walking are the norm for shorter journeys.”
Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Baker elaborated on the thinking behind the investment in cycle parking at train stations.
"The intention is to join up different modes of transport, so people have a sustainable choice from when they leave their door to wherever they finish up. Part of that is to make sure people can cycle to the station and leave their bike there.
"What I've observed, all around the country, is the moment you put in new bike spaces they get filled up immediately. There's clearly the demand."
While that money will be welcomed by cycle campaigners, some would point out that one issue that needs addressing to encourage the ‘joined-up travel’ Mr Baker desires would be to make it easier for cyclists to take non-folding bikes on trains at peak times.
At last week’s opening session of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s inquiry to ‘Get Britain Cycling’ major investment and leadership from the highest levels of government were identified as the two key factors that would encourage more people to take to bikes.
The investment is starting to mount up, although it is still well below the per capita levels seen in a number of European countries, and Mr Baker insists that the support from his senior colleagues is there.
"There have been expressions of interest in cycling from both the prime minister and deputy prime minister,” he explained.
“There is a recognition of a value of cycling at the very top. I wouldn't tell you that if it wasn't true. Certainly, when I've put forward schemes for funding they have been funded. People across government recognise the value of cycling."
Mr Baker rejected appeals from witnesses to the Parliamentary Inquiry to undertake a centralised push for segregated cycling infrastructure, instead saying that it should be left to councils to decide how to spend any money they received for cycling, which ties in with the government’s localisation agenda.
"Ultimately a cycle lane is normally a local facility and there's a limit to how far central government should be telling councils what they do in their own patch,” he said.
“We can set an example, we can provide funding streams, and we can hope local government does the rest."
With cycling levels in Britain running at around 2 per cent of journeys, he also said it was unlikely we would see it reach levels seen in the Netherlands.
"If we reached Dutch levels I'd be ecstatic, but I can't see us getting there," he reflected.
"I went to Leiden railway station and there were, I think, 13,000 bikes there that morning, which is just a different world from all other European countries.
“The Dutch have been fantastically successful. It is by and large flatter in Holland than it is in the UK, which is certainly an advantage, and it's more compact, so there are differences."
As the European Cyclists’ Federation pointed out recently, while Denmark and the Netherlands, both of which instituted policies in the 1970s which have led to today’s levels of cycling, may be tough examples to follow, Germany is a country that demonstrates what can be achieved if there is the political will to encourage people to cycle and make it safe for them to do so.