The Manchester Mayoral hopeful Andy Burnham has made a cycling pledge for the city, saying he would spend £17 per head for cycling.
The figure, which matches London’s funding commitment, contrasts starkly with the average of £4 per person in England outside the capital, which is set to drop to 72p as austerity bites.
In an interview with Cycling UK President and Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, Mr Burnham said he would draw up a clear plan for cycling in his first 100 days if elected Mayor of Greater Manchester.
Mr Burnham, a former Health Secretary, said: “I'm a big believer in physical activity...not just the physical health benefits but the mental health benefits. If you look at Greater Manchester, too many people are trapped in their cars. We need to make our city more liveable.”
He said: “We have been the medals factory that has kick-started so much Olympic success, but if you go out on to the roads of Greater Manchester you see very few people cycling. So we have got an opportunity here to put that right, to learn from where London got things right, where they got it wrong, and come back with a really strong plan to boost cycling across the city region.
“My commitment at the moment – I don’t think I can get to Sadiq’s [Khan; Mayor of London] level straight away – is to create a dedicated cycling budget within the budget for transport for Greater Manchester, and to build it up over time towards that London figure.
“One of the commitments that’s been made post-Rio is that we want to see that Velodrome success taken out to the streets, and I think that is very much the role of Cycling UK – to get that enthusiasm into the wider population.”
Cycling UK’s Chief Executive, Paul Tuohy, said: “Mr Burnham has really thrown down the cycling gauntlet to his fellow candidates with his commitment to create a dedicated cycling budget and pledge to build a major new cycling network.
“At the moment, we’re seeing London, Edinburgh and Cardiff all making real efforts to promote cycling. Manchester is the next proving ground for cities that are fit for cycling in England. Cycling UK will be encouraging all candidates to commit to Space for Cycling during the course of this election.”
The Government said it will continue to support sustainable transport with a new £580m ‘Access’ fund for England which will run until 2019-20. However, the funding equates to little less than £3 per person per year – far below the £10 per person per year level the Prime Minister said he would be aiming for.
Then-Shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner told MPs that cycling "took a big hit" in the recent spending review, leaving little to spend in next year’s cycling and walking investment strategy.
Clare Perry, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, told the Commons that this was untrue, and that “the Government continue to encourage more cycling and walking across England.
“We did good work under the last Conservative Government: spending per head rose from £2 in 2010 to £6 now and more than £10 in the cycling ambition cities. On the long-term vision, we have made it clear that we want to make the UK a cycling nation.”
And late last year we reported how a city in the Netherlands that already has the world’s highest modal share for cycling – a whopping 60 per cent – is to spend an astonishing €85 euro per head of population in each of the next five years to improve conditions further for people who get around by bike.
In total, Groningen, which has a population of some 200,000 people, plans to spend €85 million euro on cycling during the period as part of its Cycling Strategy 2015-2025.
The money, which comes from municipal, regional and federal budgets, “reflects what we think every city should be doing,” said European Cycling Federation (ECF) health policy officer, Dr Randy Rzewnicki .
So where will the expenditure go? Well, in its report on the city’s cycling strategy last year the ECF outlined some key areas of Groningen’s policy when it comes to two-wheeled transport.
Those include that new developments must take account of their impact on cycling from the outset – for instance, a planned revamp of the city’s main railway station will include a tunnel for cyclists, as well as 5,000 additional bike parking spaces.
Then there’s cash for undertaking repairs to existing infrastructure, with cyclists able to notify the council of any defects that need remedying via an app.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.