Sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, is calling on local authorities to apply for funding to develop safer and healthier routes to schools in their area. The £17 million for the Links to Schools programme is part of the £140 million earmarked by by the Department for Transport to promote cycling.
In civil engineering terms £17 million is a small amount of money, by contrast the costs of some of the government's flagship road building projects was last year estimated to have reached £100 million per mile, or £1,500 pounds per inch. Even the relatively cut-price option of widening the M1 has been estimated at £21 million per mile.
One of the beauties of cycling (especially for politicians) is that even small investments can make a big difference. The Links to Schools programme will extend the National Cycle Network, bringing it closer to schools and, by joining up residential areas to schools, make it easier for young people to walk or cycle. It is expected that more than 700 schools will directly benefit via funding to 300 schemes. That works out at just over £24,000 per school or £56,666 per scheme.
Sustrans' Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Sustrans believes that every child in the country has the right to a safe walking and cycling route to school. This record breaking funding will mean that we can continue to work with local authorities to ensure this vision moves a step closer to becoming a reality.
"It is vital that we do whatever we can to support children and young people to cycle and walk to school. Cycling and walking has so many benefits for pupils such as improved health, confidence and concentration as well as the obvious benefits for the environment in which they will grow up in. We know that concern for children's safety is a major barrier to cycling and walking. The Links to School programme aims to address these concerns by putting in place safe walking and cycling paths to and from schools."
Transport Minister Paul Clark said: "We have dedicated £17 million through the 'Link to Schools' programme to encourage as many children as possible to walk or cycle and to feel safe doing so. Not only does this have a positive effect on health and fitness, it also helps cut congestion and improve air quality.
"Earlier this month I visited a successful walking bus in Whitstable, and saw for myself how these schemes can get children active and improve their understanding of road safety. If we work with Local Authorities to develop local schemes I am confident that we will continue to make great progress."
Here at road.cc we can't help thinking that even more progress would be made even faster if the government diverted 10 miles of new motorway money to building some Dutch-style cycling infrastructure.
If you are a parent or teacher interested in promoting cycling and walking in your school you can call the Sustrans School Travel Team on 0117 915 0100 for free information and advice.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.