Campaigners have accused the Conservative Government of going back on its promise to create a cycling revolution, as the long-awaited Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is released today, without any additional funding.
While the Government sets out its ambition to double cycling by 2040, reduce numbers of people seriously injured and killed cycling and reverse the decline in walking and cycling to school, the CTC and British Cycling say this will not happen under plans set out today. The CTC points out with current ambition it will take until the 23rd Century to achieve Dutch levels of cycling, and the lack of funding means even that can’t be achieved.
Currently the Government is spending £300m on cycling over five years, just £1.39 per person per year. It is widely held that a minimum of £10 per head per year, rising to £20, is needed to achieve 10% of trips by bike by 2025, and 25% by 2050.
While the government says the Strategy, launched with an eight week consultation, marks a new long-term approach to cycle funding, British Cycling and CTC say it’s not worth the paper it is written on.
British Cycling policy adviser, Chris Boardman, says so far the government has only achieved baby steps in cycling. “The truth is that without sustained funding, this strategy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. We know that when faced with other priorities like road maintenance, saving bus routes and new housing developments, cycling and walking will be put at the bottom of most councils’ to-do lists.”
“The government’s own figures show that investment is barely at £5 per head. Cycling’s ability to tackle serious societal issues such as obesity cannot be achieved on the cheap. This consultation exposes The Prime Minister as reneging on the ‘cycling revolution’ he promised us three years ago. If the government won’t commit to £10 per head every year, this strategy is stalling before it’s even got started.”
“Far more ambition is needed if we have any hope of creating a cycling and walking culture to rival countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, let alone the government’s own modest targets."
Cycling minister, Robert Goodwill, says he is determined to make England, to which the strategy applies, “a cycling and walking nation, comparable to the very best in the world”.
He says: “The Government’s blueprint to encourage more people to cycle and walk will benefit the whole of society by boosting the economy, improving health, cutting congestion and improving air quality. Realising our ambition will take sustained investment in cycling and walking infrastructure. That’s why we have committed over £300 million to support cycling and walking over this Parliament and this will increase further when spending on enhancing and maintaining existing infrastructure is taken into account.
“Delivering this long term plan will require patience, persistence and a change in attitudes – amongst Government, local bodies, businesses, communities and individuals. We cannot afford not to grasp the opportunities available and we are determined to make this country a cycling and walking nation, comparable to the very best in the world.”
Boardman points out progress in London, from a Conservative mayor, shows what can be done if spending recommendations are met.
CTC's Policy Director Roger Geffen says some of the government's £15bn trunk roads fund, set to make ill health, congestion and pollution worse, not better, should be redirected to cycling and walking.
“Despite its laudable aim to normalise cycling and walking by 2040, this strategy’s draft targets suggest that, outside London, English cycle use would eventually reach Dutch levels by the start of the 23rd century, while its funding allocations mean even slower progress. If ministers are serious about their stated aims, they need to reallocate some of their £15bn motorway and trunk road budget towards cycling and walking. That could help tackle congestion, pollution, physical inactivity and climate change, whereas roads spending will do the precise opposite," he said.
“Ministers need to invest in cycling to overcome congestion, pollution, physical inactivity and climate change, not make them worse."
The consultation ends on Monday 23 May 2016. A full strategy is expected in the summer.