Sustrans has warned that government cuts will affect the number of children and schools that can access the Bikeability cycling education scheme. The project receives much of its funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund which comes to an end in April.
The full details of government spending plans will be announced in the Spending Review tomorrow, but we’ve previously reported how four government departments, including the Department for Transport (DfT), have agreed to spending cuts of eight per cent a year. However, cycling is likely to be even harder hit with ministers under pressure to protect a £15.2bn programme to upgrade a hundred A roads and motorways as well as Network Rail’s £38.5bn upgrade plan.
Rob King, director of Outspoken Training which provides Bikeability in Cambridgeshire, told Cambridge News that budget cuts would mean reducing the volume of training on offer. "Government funding is a key part of the services we deliver,” he said. “A lot of people would be affected by such budget cuts."
Bikeability is currently available in around 4,000 schools in the Cambridgeshire area, offering training for all ages and ability, including free cycling classes to younger age groups.
"Funding for levels one and two, which provides five and six year olds with essential bike riding training are currently funded by the government. Considering this, younger rides would most likely be most affected by government cuts. We don't know how popular such programmes would remain under private funding."
With funding running out in April, Sustrans has reiterated its demand that 25 per cent of transport spending be dedicated to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Claire Francis, campaigns manager at Sustrans, said that without continuity in funding the country was moving away from enabling every child to have a safe journey to school.
"The government should be spending around £26 per head on transport and the public agree – yet new proposals show figures will be severely under that figure.
"All we are asking for is for 25 per cent of transport spending to be dedicated to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – which really isn't too much to ask. Sustainable transport has a number of benefits, ranging from improvements in health, environment and sustainability and it should be higher on the government's agenda."
British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling Network – a group of major British businesses including GlaxoSmithKline, The AA, Sky, Virgin Trains and the National Grid – has also called on George Osborne to invest in cycling to create a healthier workforce and so boost productivity. In an open letter, they said that “a modest investment from government now will create jobs in the short term and deliver huge long-term benefits for society.”
Sustrans is encouraging people to oppose the cuts by emailing their local MP.