Chancellor George Osborne “isn’t listening to the evidence” on transport investment, the CTC’s Roger Geffen, MBE, tells road.cc, ahead of a Parliamentary debate in which MPs will try to persuade Transport ministers to reallocate some of a £15bn roads fund to cycling.
Following talks between campaigners and the Treasury that the CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Geffen says “haven’t got very far”, on 3 February MPs will instead try to persuade ministers from the Department for Transport to use the roads fund to increase a “derisory” £300m allocated to cycling and walking, that amounts to just £1.39 per person per year in England.
CTC, the national cycling charity, is urging people to ask their MPs to attend. The motion, to debate Government investment for cycling for England, was tabled by Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton. It follows the Autumn statement, where £300m was set aside for cycling and walking over the next five years.
Ahead of next week's debate Geffen, who called the evidence behind new roads investment “questionable”, said: “There is a complete mismatch between the Government’s stated aims for a cycling revolution and where the money’s going. We have £15bn for roads versus £300m over the same five year period for cycling and walking combined, which amounts to £1.39 per person per year for the population of England outside of London.”
He said while that figure doesn't include local funding, “we are still a very long way from getting at the £10, let alone the £20, per head per year investment that we are calling for.” It also excludes London where a larger proportion of devolved transport budgets are allocated to cycling.
George Osborne “isn’t listening to the evidence”, Geffen says, because it doesn’t fit with an economic model that focuses on the private motor car, he adds “despite the fact that transport planners have been saying for decades that that is highly questionable”.
“Meanwhile £15 billion is being spent on increasing motor traffic and speeds [on main roads] but very little on local journeys which are most people’s everyday experience.
“It’s not as if the great British public is gagging for more roads. If you said more roads equals more traffic, that’s not what people want. What people want is better maintained local roads, not more long distance roads, so George Osborne is putting the money in the wrong place.”
He adds: “We have tried with the Treasury, and we haven’t got very far. We have now got to focus on transport ministers, say ‘Look, you have £15bn. You can spend it wisely or you can spend it poorly’.”
Geffen said evidence shows that for towns and cities to be drivers for the economy they need to be attractive for people and businesses, whereas building more roads will simply encourage more cars into urban centres, making them less attractive places to be.
He said: “You need to encourage walking and cycling, thinking about places rather than roads all the time.
“Can we put more money where we need it where our health, our economy needs it? Can we transform them so that they become places for people, rather than cars?”
To get in touch with your MP and persuade them to join Wednesday's debate, click here.