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Will spending round cuts & investment be good or bad for cycling?

Some possible good news, some possible bad, but the devil will be in the details

Reactions from the cycling community have been mixed to today’s announcement of £50 billion in investment in Britain’s roads in the spending round, which outlines the government’s plans for expenditure after the next general election.

It’s not yet clear exactly how the combination of day-today spending cuts and capital investment will affect cycling, though it’s understood that more details will be availabe tomorrow.

The key points that relate in one way or another to cycling and cycling facilities are:

  • £50 billion transport infrastructure program, called by the Chancellor George Osborne, "the largest programme of investment in roads for 50 years and in railways since the Victorian age"
  • Department for Transport to make 9 per cent saving in day-to-day spending.
  • Government to "look at the case for" Crossrail 2 link in London and give mayor Boris Johnson almost £9 billion of capital spending and additional financing power by 2020.
  • Transport for London budget cut, but major projects will be funded. It’s not currently clear if this includes the planned £913 million investment in cycling infrastructure, 2/3 of which was expected to come from the Treasury.
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s budget cut by 7 percent, which may mean a reduction in funding of recreational and grass-roots sport. Elite sport’s funding will be protected.

Much of the fine detail that might affect cycling is yet to be announced. For example, BikeBiz executive editor, author and cycle campaigner Carlton Reid has wondered on Twitter if tomorrow’s publication of the details will include the announcement of an Office for Active Travel.

Cycling charity Sustrans says the government is mistaken if it believes building more roads is the key to economic recovery.

Sustrans Policy Director, Jason Torrance said: “Investment in infrastructure is key to stimulating the UK’s economy, but the government is mistaken if it thinks large scale investment in new roads is anything but a drain on the taxpayer.

“Investing in infrastructure that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport and takes the two-thirds of journeys under five miles off our roads would transform local economies and increase people’s travel choices.

“By providing people with healthy and affordable transport options the government would dramatically ease congestion, improve our health and save the economy billions.”

British Cycling said the government should not miss the “blindingly obvious” chance to provide better cycling facilities as part of new infrastructure.

British Cycling’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, Martin Gibbs, said: “Today’s news presents the Department for Transport with a blindingly obvious opportunity to prioritise cycling and reassess where the roads budget is going.

“The All Party Parliamentary Get Britain Cycling report called for the cycling budget to be £10 per head if we are ever to get near creating an environment that will inspire more people to get on bikes. At the moment, the government is spending just £2 per head. A better allocation of investment now and a sustained strategy on cycling would help the government to realise the full potential of what cycling can deliver for the nation.

“I look forward to hearing more detail about the £100 billion transport infrastructure details that the government will announce tomorrow. It is essential that all new roads and infrastructure are built with cycling designed in at the outset. We’re still not doing this.

“The Mayor of London’s commitment on cycling is admirable and the sort of initiative we want to see happening across Britain. I hope today’s cuts to Transport for London’s budget do not lead to the fantastic ambition we’ve seen in the capital being scaled back.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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