Transport Minister Norman Baker has today announced that £15 million is being made available to local authorities in England, other than in London, for schemes to improve the safety of cyclists at junctions. That sum however is dwarfed by those spent on many individual road improvement schemes each year, and the head of sustainable transport charity Sustrans has called on the government to step up investment in making junctions safer for cyclists by allocating “a reasonable proportion” of the Highways Agency’s annual budget to safety improvements.
Announcing the funding jointly with Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, Mr Baker said: “I am delighted to be able to provide today a further £15 million to improve cycle safety, by enabling local authorities to tackle proven dangerous junctions. This investment – alongside a number of other initiatives we have progressed – will make our roads a safer place for everyone using them.
“Cycling is a fantastic way of getting fit, reducing congestion and improving the environment, and cyclist safety matters hugely,” he added.
The money made available today is additional to £15 million previously announced to improve the safety of junctions in London, and only local authorities outside London will be able to apply for money from the new fund.
Commenting on the announcement, Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “Safety is the biggest concern for both cyclists and would-be cyclists so it’s about time the Government stepped in to make it safer to get around on two wheels.
“This investment is a small step in the right direction, but £15 million isn’t nearly enough to make it safe, easy and enjoyable for everyone to travel by bike – David Cameron must stick to his promise and invest a reasonable proportion of the Highways Agency budget in cycling for all.”
Excluding London boroughs, there are nearly 400 local authorities in England, so either the money would have to be spread very thinly – the fund would equate to less than £37,500 each – or, more likely, the vast majority of councils will miss out altogether.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said that local authorities would be required to submit bids for cash available under the fund, and that they would be expected to make their own contribution to any proposed works in order to secure funding.
It added that details of the scheme were being presented to its Cycling Forum, whose members include the Association of Chief Police Officers, Bike Right!, British Cycling, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), CTC Cyclenation, the Freight Transport Association, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the London Cycling Campaign, Mineral Products Association, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), the Road Haulage Association, Transport for London and Sustrans.
By comparison, the funding announced today of £15 million is less than 1 per cent of the £1.608 billion invested by the Highways Agency in England’s strategic road network during 2010/11 alone; more than half that money went on just seven schemes, ranging from £276 million for works on junctions 16-23 of the M25 to £56 million on the A3 at Hindhead, the amounts reflectig just one financial year’s spend on those projects. It's also not a very big sum when set against the length of the UK road network - which the most recent estimate put at 245,000 miles, A roads and motorways account for just under 13 per cent of that total (with motorways making us less than one per cent) these roads account for 64 per cent of the UK's total traffic and are under the control of the DfT not local authorities.
As part of its Cities fit For Cycling Campaign, the Times newspaper has called for some 2 per cent of the Highways Agency’s annual budget of £4.9 billion, equivalent to a little under £100 million, to be allocated to cycling 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.