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Too much Cycle City Ambition… and not enough cash

At least £80million of Cycle City bids chase £30million govt funding as UK cities look to invest in cycling

At least seven bids totalling nearly £80 million have been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) to try and win a slice of the £30 million Cycle City Ambition cash for cities in England announced by Minister for Transport Norman Baker in January.

Up to three cities, possibly only one or two, will be successful given the current level of funding available. If even just two of the three most ambitious bids were chosen, the combined amounts involved would be greater than the £30million total available.

The deadline for applications was last Tuesday 30 April, and has identified seven separate bids for the money available - according to on report there are as many as 20.

Even seven bids means that demand outstrips supply by a factor of 2.5 to 1 – this will go much higher once full details of all of the bids become available.

The cities we have so far identified (we’ll be carrying out further research to find others), and the sums that local authorities or passenger transport executives concerned are seeking according to the sources we have seen, are:

Manchester (TfGM) £20 million
Leeds/Bradford (Metro) £18 million
Birmingham £17 million
Bristol £10 million
Nottingham £6 million
Cambridge £4.1 million
Norwich £3.4 million

Other cities believed to have put forward bids include Oxford, Southend and Ipswich, and we have asked the DfT whether it is able to confirm how many bids have been submitted in total and where they have come from.

The actual sums those cities contemplate investing should their bids prove successful is substantially higher, due to a match funding requirement stipulated by the DfT – Cambridgeshire County Council, for example, would match-fund to the tune of 50%, seeking £4.1 million from the DfT for schemes worth a total £8.2 million.

Now we at are under no illusions that the UK has a long, long way to go in matching the levels of investment in cycling, not to mention quality of infrastructure and other issues such as presumed liability that are so common on the Continent.

But we’re encouraged that so many cities are now firmly committed to investing in cycling, and to stumping up the cash in terms of match funding that would make their plans become reality - assuming their bids were successful.

Certainly, in the nearly five years since was founded, we believe there has been a noticeable increase in interest in investing in cycling infrastructure by local authorities that has accelerated over the past year to 18 months. A number of factors can be assumed to have contributed, the example set by successive adminstrations in London and what might be termed the London effect as cycling becomes more mainstream in the capital and London centred national media projecting that out to the rest of the country –  The Times Cities fit for Cycling campaign has provided a focal point for those who had been lobbying for improvements for years, and via a channel that politicians had to take seriously. In cash straitened times it is probably also the case that the message is starting to get through about the cost effectiveness of investment in cycling.

There’s little doubt either that Olympic and Paralympic success last summer, together with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and, the previous year, Mark Cavendish taking the world title have not only raised the profile of cycling as a sport, but also encouraged people to take to two wheels.

There’s a long way to go, and it’s clear that for every local authority keen to promote cycling and pump cash into it, there are others whose way of thinking is still built around the car.

The CTC and British Cycling have both said in no uncertain terms that the next step is to ensure that the Get Britain Cycling report has a chance of being debated in Parliament by getting 100,000 people to sign the e-petition posted by The Times urging Prime Minsiter David Cameron to act.

Cycling organisations are urging cyclists, their families, and friends to sign the petition, If you haven’t signed the petition yet, you can find it here and so can your family and frinds. The faster it reaches the 100,000 signature target the more likely it is to win debating time in parliament and the greater the chance of speeding up the process of making our streets, towns and cities safer and more pleasant places for everyone.

The peitition currently totals 53,401 signatures, if you can add it that please do - we will continue to bring you regular updates on the peitition's progress. .

In the meantime, if you are aware that your local authority has submitted a Cycle City Ambition bid, please let us know in the comments.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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