Government urged to increase funding as cycling levels fall in England for second year running

Campaigners call on Boris Johnson to make more money available

New figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that the percentage of adults in England cycling at least once a month has fallen for the second year running. The news comes as campaigners urge the government to increase funding.

In 2017/18, 16.1 per cent of adults in England cycled once a month or more, down from 16.9 per cent the previous year and 17.1 per cent in 2015/16.

Falls were also seen among more frequent cyclists, with the percentage of people riding once a week down from 11.9 per cent to 11.5 per cent over the two-year period, while the proportion riding five times a week fell from 3.4 per cent to 3.3 per cent over the same timeframe.

As ever, are were huge variations across the country. In England’s cycling capital, Cambridge, around two thirds of adults cycle once a month or more, while in Oxford, more than four in ten people do.

By contrast, towns and cities including Luton, plus, in northwest England, Burnley, Blackburn and Rochdale, as well as in some Outer London boroughs, came in at less than half the average for England as a whole, with monthly participation levels less than 8 per cent.

Following the general election earlier this month, Cycling UK chief executive urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase the funding for cycling and invest in safe infrastructure to get more people in the saddle.

In its election manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged £350 million for cycling over the next five years – equivalent to £1.55 per person per year, down from the existing £7.

The Cycling & Walking Alliance, of which Cycling UK is a member, has called for funding of £17 per person per year, rising to £34 by 2025.

Tuohy said: “Cycling UK is alarmed at the prospect of a new government slashing the level of funding for cycling in England to less than a quarter of its current levels for the next five years.

“The Conservatives in their manifesto have promised to spend just £70 million a year on cycling infrastructure, opening up a chasm between what has been promised and what is actually needed.”

He continued: “The Conservative manifesto commitment would see the current £7 per head currently being spent on walking and cycling in England, outside of London slashed to just £1.55 per head.

“This would be an abject failure by this incoming government to address the climate, air pollution, congestion and inactivity-related health crises the country is now facing.

“That’s why we will be writing to Boris Johnson demanding an urgent re-evaluation of his party’s spending pledge if he is truly serious about making the country ‘the greenest, cleanest on earth’,” he added.

However, in response to calls for campaigners to increase funding, a spokeswoman for the DfT said:  “We’re determined to dramatically increase cycling and walking, giving more people the opportunity to exercise safely as part of their normal daily commute.

“Cycling in England increased last year with more than a billion trips taken by bike, a 22 per cent increase since 2013. The £350 million cycle infrastructure fund is just one part of a wider package of investment in active travel.

“Further funding will be drawn from a number of sources, including £100 billion of additional spending for renewal of roads and other infrastructure.”

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.

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