Prime Minister David Cameron says the Conservative Party aims to increase funding for cycling to £10 per person per year and to double levels of cycling by 2025 – but warns that will only be possible if his party is able to continue with its economic plan.
Mr Cameron made the pledges in his response to the #ChooseCycling network of major businesses, which had called on party leaders to outline their commitment to cycling, Mr Cameron claims that the coalition government has grown cycle funding to £6 per person.
That figure seems based on a five-year parliamentary term, rather than reflecting annual spend – the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) has put the annual amount spend per head on cycling in England at £2.
Chris Boardman, policy advisor at British Cycling which co-ordinates the #ChooseCycling network, has called on the party to fully commit to spending £10 a head each year, and says its current investment plans for cycle safety “will only scratch the surface.”
In his letter, Mr Cameron describes himself as “a huge cycling fan” saying it is “a great, fun, healthy and convenient way to get around.”
Acknowledging that he has found it difficult to find time to take to two wheels himself since becoming Prime Minister in 2010, he says “my enthusiasm for cycling – either as a sport, a leisure activity, or as a form of transport – has not waned.”
He says his party’s vision “is to double cycling by 2025, not least because it means better health, less pollution, and less congestion – we want it to be the natural choice for short journeys.
“Our delivery plan sets out action to improve local leadership, funding, infrastructure, planning and safety so we can promote cycling and address the concerns and problems that are stopping more people from jumping on their bike.”
However, he warns that “this is only possible if we continue working through our long-term economic plan – cutting the deficit while also making the investment needed.
“When we came to office in 2010, spending on cycling was £2 per person – it’s now at £6 per person,” Mr Cameron claims.
“We have made clear our aim to increase spending further to £10 per person each year,” he continues. “The money we’re investing in our eight cycle cities and TfL funding in London is already in excess of £10 per person per year, which is a great start.”
The Prime Minster reiterated his party’s manifesto pledge to spend an additional £200 million to improve cycle safety including cycle-proofing new road schemes, and said the Conservatives wanted to double cycling levels by 2025.
Neither that target, nor the aim to spend £10 per person per year called for by British Cycling and by the APPCG’s Get Britain Cycling report, published in 2013, are new.
Both were unveiled by transport minister Robert Goodwill last October in the government’s draft cycling delivery plan, published on the same day MPs debated progress being made in implementing the recommendations of that report.
Opening that debate, APPCG co-chair Ian Austin, currently seeking re-election as Labour MP for Dudley North, said he was “disappointed” in the plan “for all sorts of reasons.”
Referring to it as a "document," he added, "I don't think you can credibly call it a delivery plan."
Paul Tuohy, chief executive of national cycling charity CTC, was also scathing about the government’s intentions, saying: “This is a derisory plan not a delivery plan … Cycling needs at least £10 a head if we are even to begin catching up with German, Dutch or Danish levels of cycle use.”
In response to Mr Cameron’s letter, Chris Boardman said: “It’s great to hear that the Conservative party wants to increase spending further to £10 per person per year.
“However, it’s clear that they see this as a long-term aim rather than something they will bring in now.
“With HS2 and other transport schemes set to cost many billions over the term of the next parliament, it’s hard to see why further money cannot be allocated to sustainable transport – especially given its ability to transform Britain’s health, improve air quality and reinvigorate our towns and cities.
“The fact is that Britain can only become a cycling nation with significant investment behind it. The £200 million that the Conservative party has already pledged to make cycling safer will only scratch the surface.
“Having said that, it is heartening to hear about plans to introduce several key measures to improve the experience of cycling, such as dedicated cycle streets, low level traffic signals and bigger cycle boxes at traffic lights,” he added.
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.