Highways England's Cycling Strategy short on detail and funds

Government body will allocate £100m over four years to separate cycle infrastructure, but still a long road ahead to undo decades of underinvestment

Highways England (HE) has released its £100m Cycle Strategy document setting out how it will begin to “cycle proof” the UK’s A-roads, with the aim of replacing some car journeys with cycle trips to cut pollution and congestion.

The four page document, published on Friday, says the government company will focus on 200 cycling schemes between now and 2021, delivering facilities that are “safe and separate from traffic”, upgrading its current design standards for cycle infrastructure and training planners and engineers to “think bike”. HE will also look at tackling dangerous lorries working on the network.

However, campaigners say the document is short on detail and, with just 1% of the UK’s overall £11bn transport budget over four years now allocated to cycling, that the money is not enough to deliver decent quality cycling facilities following what they call decades of underinvestment.

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Roger Geffen MBE, CTC Policy Director, commenting on the strategy, said: “Highways England’s new cycling strategy runs to just four pages, and is therefore inevitably short on detail”

“Yet it still manages to fit in several of CTC’s suggestions, such as a promise to look at ways to improve the safety of lorries used on Highways England contracts, which is welcome.”

Geffen praised HE’s aims of “designing in” cycling to all schemes, including planned maintenance work, and training staff to “think bike”, as well as a promise to consult cycling groups including the CTC, Sustrans and British Cycling on the Strategy’s implementation.

However, the £300m allocated by the government for cycling over the next four years, the equivalent of just £1.39 per head per year, will not be enough to make up for past lack of investment, he argues.

In its Cycling Strategy Highways England says it recognises the importance of its network for cyclists and says under the Strategy cycling improvements will be integrated into its road schemes to develop what it calls “an integrated, safe, comprehensive and high quality cycling network”.

It goes on: “For our network this means cycling facilities which are safe, separate from traffic and that enable users of all abilities to cycle, encouraging cycling as a sustainable form of transport”.

HE says it will begin by reviewing the existing cycle network, before “identifying, prioritising and investing in ways to improve cycling conditions”. Money will be spent on infrastructure like crossings, cycle paths, improved signage and safety schemes.

“Providing more attractive, safe, accessible and integrated cycling facilities will encourage cycling participation and remove some local motor vehicle journeys from our network,” it says.

Geffen says good design standards and more ambitious spending are needed if this is to happen.

“What matters… is what gets delivered on the ground – and how quickly decades of failing to create safe and convenient cycling links along or across the existing trunk and motorway network, particularly at large junctions, can be reversed,” he says.

“This requires significant funding, together with the design standards needed to ensure it is well spent.  

“New cycling design standards from Highways England are promised and an earlier draft appeared encouraging. However, if David Cameron’s promised ‘Cycling Revolution’ is finally to get rolling, Ministers must now redeploy some of the £15 billion budget for strategic road network improvements, given how little has so far been earmarked for cycle spending.”