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Petition challenges the Government to put its money where its mouth is on cycling

Aimed at the Treasury ahead of July 9 budget, the CPRE says now is the time to strike

A petition to boost Treasury money going into the new Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has been launched ahead of next week's budget.

The  Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), who started the petition, says it is vital funding commitments are made now to avoid losing momentum gained by the Strategy which, as cycling minister Robert Goodwill announced last week, his department is working on now. The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy requires by law that government sets out targets for cycling - and long-term funding, but it depends heavily on how much funding is available - and that hasn't been clarified yet.

The CPRE's Ralph Smyth says there's a risk money for cycling could "drop off a cliff" beyond March 2016 when current funding streams end, and while he says the Department for Transport is on side, the focus must now be the Treasury. Smyth hopes to get 10,000 signatures by Wednesday.

He says: "The cross-party commitment before the election ‘of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands’ is being forgotten. So is the promise to raise investment in cycling to at least £10 per head per year. It’s currently at £2 and even that meagre figure is set to drop off a cliff in 2016."

"We have won with the Department for Transport thanks to people power and we now need to win the Treasury."

He said though funding cuts make for an "uphill struggle" he points out with more Treasury officials now cycling, the argument to invest in cycling may be an easier one to make.

He says: "It is not just the health issue; people who are physically active are more productive. And of course it seems a growing number of Treasury officials do cycle to work. They are starting to get why it makes sense for the rest of the country."

The petition points out England is one of the most unfit countries in Europe, with one in six deaths attributed to physical inactivity. We have one of the worst safety records for vulnerable road users, with walking dropping a third since 2007 and cycling at the level of "poor performing" countries like Bulgaria and Portugal.

"Things are so bad in England, it is going to be difficult to catch up in terms of infrastructure with countries like the Netherlands and Germany," says Smyth. "We have really got to massively change the game and that's why it is so important that we push the Treasury."

Smyth cites a "growing gap" between London and the rest of the country where cycling investment is concerned - the capital currently spends six times more per resident than the rest of England.

He highlights recent statistics that show pedal cycle serious injuries increased 8% 2013-14, and the fact you are 15 times more likely to be killed on major rural roads than in cities.

The timing of the petition is key, says Smyth: "This is our first cycling and walking investment strategy; if we don't get something ambitious the first time around there is a risk that momentum will be lost."

In its first 30 hours the petition got 2,000 sign ups. Smyth is hoping for 10,000 by Wednesday. 

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