The entire population of Greater Manchester will receive less cycling funding that just one London borough - a move that campaigners are saying is evidence of a north-south budget divide.
Greater Manchester secured £42m in 2011, with an extra £15m set to come from a ‘sustainable transport’ pot - all to be spent on getting more people on their bikes over the next decade.
By contrast, Boris Johnson has been able to pledge £913m over the same period for Greater London - much of which is going on mini-Holland projects.
As we reported in 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the recipients of £77 million of Cycle City Ambition cash, with Greater Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham the biggest winners.
Manchester was awarded £20 million in central governnment funding - the £77 million awarded to the eight winning Cycle City Ambition bids was more than double the £30 million originally set aside for the initiative; moreover, initial expectations were that only two, maybe three, bids would be successful.
The Manchester Evening News points out that “his plan to create ‘mini Hollands’ means Kingston will get £30m to serve 170,000 residents (£176.50 per head), while £10m will be spent on nearly 3m people in Greater Manchester (£3.50 per resident).”
Councillor Chris Paul, Cycling Champion on the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Committee, has produced analysis to say that Manchester needs £600m to provide all 10 boroughs with the cycle paths it needs.
He said: “We need funding that’s proportionate to the ambition we have got.
“There are so many different towns across the 10 boroughs, we’d need £600m which is very hard to imagine when we are only spending £10m a year. That’s the level we have to go to tackle this in a reasonably short time. Hundreds of millions.”
Nick Hubble from Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign (GMCC) , said: “The problem that we have generally is funding of cycling in this country is seen as a bolt-on to existing transport projects.
“If you do want to make cycling mainstream with a significant proportion of people travelling by bike you need to make it a part of the existing transport budget.
“It makes sense that if you want 10 per cent of people cycling then you need to spend 10 per cent of the budget on infrastructure rather than the system we have now - which is wait for special money to be announced as part of the Cycling City scheme, or other similar schemes, and when that comes in, let’s spend it. Cycling is not included in general transport budgets in the way it should be.”
He added: “It doesn’t seem to be fair. The investment is so unevenly distributed across the country.
“Looking at it from a cycling perspective, I was down in London a month ago and there are some really interesting things going on there.
“I can actually see their promises to make cycling more mainstream actually going in on the ground.
“It takes commitment both in will and in funding and if we don’t get that in Manchester it’s difficult to see how it’s going to happen.”
Jason Torrance, Partnerships Director for Sustrans, said: “It is great news that Manchester attracted government funds for cycling but this is a one-off pot and it’s small compared to the consistent funding that London will see invested in cycling over the next 10 years. If we really aspire to create a city where cycling or walking feels a safe, pleasant and realistic option for travel, then cycle infrastructure needs to be a consistent part of our transport budget rather than just a nice add-on.
“We could start to tackle Manchester’s problems of air pollution, congestion and inactive lifestyles, which would inevitably make the city a better place to live.
“National government has committed to a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy but are yet to allocate funding to it. To support investment in cycling in Manchester and close the funding gap between London and Manchester national government must provide significant long term funding that supports devolution of Manchester and other cities.”
A TfGM spokesperson said: “TfGM has a long-term commitment to cycling and we are aiming to increase the proportion of journeys made by bike in Greater Manchester to 10 per cent by 2025.
“Our investment to date is just the beginning, with our Cycling Strategy looking to build a well-established cycling culture which is integral to the region’s health, well-being and prosperity.
“We will continue to press for further investment and funding for cycling-related activities as we move ahead and to further integrate cycling into our 2040 strategy. This will be aided by the devolution of transport powers in Greater Manchester – which includes giving the Elected Mayor responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget, including a multi-year settlement from central government.”
Greater Manchester has benefitted from a total funding of £20m from the Department of Transport. In 2013 the ambitions were as follows:
The funding will kick start Velocity 2025, which will, over time, create a city-wide cycle network. Initially, as part of the CCAG funding, this will involve a series of high quality cycle lanes that will lead from the city centre out to the M60 like spokes of a bicycle wheel. Spokes will have a Cycle and Ride station located several miles from the city centre, allowing cyclists to leave their bikes and swap onto Metrolink or a local rail service for the last leg of their journey if they wish. As part of a door to door approach the proposals involve the introduction of 20 mph zones in some residential areas adjacent to the cycle “spokes” to enable safer access to the cycleways. Greater Manchester’s vision is to double the number of cycle journeys within 5 years and to double them again by 2025. The Government funding will bring 56km of new or improved cycle paths and predicted health and wellbeing savings of around £7 million a year.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.