Millions of pounds of the £300 million set aside by the government to be spent on cycling in England during the lifetime of the current parliament will instead go on initiatives such as promoting walking to school or work, providing real-time information at bus stops and encouraging people to use car clubs.
That’s the gist of an announcement made today by the Department for Transport (DfT) as it revealed which local authorities outside London would share £64 million in local transport funding for a variety of projects.
The DfT makes clear that the cash is “part of a wider government package of more than £300 million to boost walking and cycling during the current parliament.”
That money was announced by former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), published in November 2015 following the Conservative Party’s victory in that year’s general election.
Referring to funding for cycling in England outside London, the CSR said: “This settlement [to the DfT] also commits more than £300 million to cycling investment between 2015-16 and 2020-21.”
That figure itself included the previously announced £114 million funding under the Cycle City Ambition scheme, meaning that just £186 million was ‘new’ money – which when translated into annual spend per capita of population is around a tenth of the minimum £10 that campaigners have called for. While the per capita spend will be increased once match funding is taken into account, that would still only take it into the region of £2 per person each year.
CTC and Sustrans both said at the time that the amount of money pledged would make former Prime Minister David Cameron’s pre-election pledge to double levels of cycling impossible to achieve, and news that some of the money will be spent on other initiatives is bound to dismay campaigners even further.
And now, road.cc can reveal that by no means all of that money set aside will actually be spent on cycling.
In past announcements regarding funds allocated under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) – now renamed the Sustainable Transport Access Fund – the DfT has provided brief details of each individual scheme.
However, it has told road.cc that such information is not available with respect to this wave of funding.
By checking details of some individual bids, however, we have been able to establish that much of the money will go towards initiatives unrelated to cycling.
That’s acknowledged by the DfT itself, which in its press release says the cash will be spent on initiatives including:
- more safety and awareness training for cyclists
- extra secure cycle storage
- bike repair and maintenance courses
- road safety measures
- mapping information for pedestrians
- real time bus information through smart phone apps or information at bus stops
- increased focus on car sharing clubs.
The largest amount – £7.5 million – goes to Sheffield City Region. While we have been unable to find precise details of its current bid, an LSTF award last year went towards ongoing projects “including loans for electric bikes, cycle training and a programme to make HGVs, buses, coaches and vans more fuel efficient” – not exclusively on cycling, then.
A similar amount goes to a consortium of 10 local authorities across England, led by Blackpool Council, for an existing initiative delivered by the walking charity Living Streets to encourage people to walk to schools or workplaces.
There is one reference to “cycling” in this document produced by the council in relation to the bid, but it is clear the focus is on walking.
The next largest sum, £6.9 million, goes to a joint bid from four West of England councils – Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
This document from Bristol City Council makes it clear that cash allocated under today’s announcement will be spent on initiatives not directly related to cycling:
The funding will continue to deliver a wide range of schemes including community, schools and business engagement activity. Some specific examples include support for family cycle training; school travel plans and match-funded grants for businesses to install onsite sustainable transport facilities.
The funding is also critical in maintaining levels of marketing/ communications support for sustainable transport, including the West of England’s transport website TravelWest. An element of this funding will be used to launch the MetroBus operation in the Westof England in 2017, and to provide good quality information at MetroBus stops.
Those are just three examples, but collectively those schemes account for getting on for a third of the money announced today, and we would expect similar findings in many of the other projects listed at the end of this article, with funding originally meant for cycling being given to other sustainable travel initiatives.
Announcing the funding today, transport minister Andrew Jones said: “We are committed to improving how people travel and this investment will ensure that people’s journeys are cheaper, safer and better for the environment. It will help people to become more active and better transport planning will reduce congestion on our roads – particularly at peak times.
“This investment will also help people access jobs, education and training - specifically targeting those looking to get back into work, as part of our relentless drive to make this is a country that works for everyone.”
Here is the list of local authorities that have been awarded Sustainable Travel Access Fund cash today.
£7.5m Sheffield City Region Combined Authority
£7.498m Blackpool Council*
£6.901m Bristol City Council (West of England)
£3.323m Tees Valley Combined Authority
£3.322m Southend-on-Sea BC joint bid with Thurrock Council and Essex CC
£3.195m Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council
£2.735m Nottingham City Council - joint bid with Derby CC and Nottinghamshire CC
£2.294m Southampton City Council (joint bid with Hampshire County Council)
£2.128m Luton BC (joint bid with Bedford BC and Central Bedfordshire Council)
£1.94m Lancashire County Council - Joint bid with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
£1.5m Devon County Council
£1.5m Herefordshire County Council
£1.5m Slough Borough Council
£1.497m Plymouth City Council
£1.488m Norfolk County Council
£1.485m Brighton and Hove Council
£1.452m Kent County Council
£1.388m North East Lincolnshire Council
£1.35m Isle of Wight Council
£1.312m City of York
£1.2m East Sussex County Council
£0.975m Lincolnshire County Council
£0.974m North Yorkshire County Council
* Consortium bid with Bucks CC, Herts CC, North East CA, Stoke on Trent CC, W Sussex CC, Hants CC, Leicester CC, North Lincs Council and Surrey CC
In addition, three city regions share £3.8 million from the Cycling & Walking to Work Fund for the following 12 months to “connect people with employment and apprenticeships.”
Those are Greater Manchester Combined Authority and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which each receive £1.5 million, and Liverpool City Region, which gets £0.77 million.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.