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Second cycling and walking investment strategy: funding "insufficient" but "we have come a very long way", says Cycling UK

Cycling UK's Roger Geffen praised ambition of CWIS2 but says there is simply not enough cash to meet the Government's objectives...

You could be forgiven for missing the announcement of the Government's second cycling and walking investment strategy for England on Wednesday, with other political events taking even our eyes off the ball. Since then a number of active travel and cycling groups have reacted, with Cycling UK perhaps taking the most sceptical tone so far by saying the gap between targets and the actual funding allocated to achieve them could turn out to be "a poisoned chalice". 

> Boris Johnson resignation: A blow for active travel?

In a blog on Cycling UK's website, the organisation's campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen goes as far as to question the legality of the second cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS2), saying: 

"It is arguable that CWIS2 doesn't even meet the legal requirements of a CWIS. It spells out the objectives to be achieved and the financial resources to be made available for achieving those objectives (as required by the Infrastructure Act 2015). However there is still a glaring mismatch between the increases in cycling and walking the Department for Transport (DfT) is aiming to achieve, and the funding available for doing so.

"Unfortunately the law does not clearly stipulate that the resources available must be sufficient to meet the objectives! That's something I hope we can address when the Government publishes its Transport Bill later this year." 

There is praise for the actual objectives, such as the target to increase cycling trips to 1.6 billion over the next three years, and Geffen welcomes the creation of Active Travel England plus the appointments of Chris Boardman and Danny Williams. 

There is further criticism of the clarification by the Government that the targeted increase in cycling and walking trips to 50% by 2030 and 55% by 2035 is for 'short' trips, with Geffen saying this a "very regrettable steps backwards" and essentially "steers" funding back towards urban areas: 

"Evidence from the Netherlands indicates that the average trip on an e-bike is about 60% longer than the average trip on a conventional pedal-cycle," continues Geffen.

"E-bikes could significantly increase the contribution of cycling to tackling the climate crisis, by enabling people to switch from cars for longer or hillier journeys, and in more rural areas." 

Trouble at the top

As we've already outlined in this blog article, Boris Johnson's premiership has been an unusual time for those who are passionate about the environment and active travel, especially those who might otherwise be completely opposed to the outgoing Prime Minister's views on a whole host of other matters.

The messages coming from the top are positive ones, yet it's hard to see the enthusiasm of Johnson and his transport advisor Andrew Gilligan filtering down to the rest of the Conservative party, and Conservative councils are often hostile towards active travel. One Conservative council candidate even based part of his campaign around preventing European-style roundabouts

This could be partly why Johnson's "new golden age for cycling" as we emerge from the pandemic isn't really bearing fruit so far, and as Gilligan's departure is expected alongside Johnson's, this could further slow down the bold plans outlined in CWIS2:

"Boris Johnson's resignation, announced even as I've been writing this blog, is likely also to lead to Andrew Gilligan's departure from No.10," says Geffen. 

"If so, we must hope that Active Travel England can now survive and thrive without him. We owe him a big debt of gratitude for the progress made over the past 2 years."

In lieu of the extra funding it thinks is needed, Cycling UK plans to take other measures to ensure what is there is used well and messages filter through, which include engaging "constructively with councils in developing their cycling and walking networks and plans" and "making sure these are incorporated into Local Plans (which guide new developments) and Local Transport Plans."

This is echoed by Sustrans, with its CEO Xavier Brice saying: “Long-term investment in reliable infrastructure, such as the National Cycle Network, alongside immediately tackling the plague of pavement parking, is critical to improving access to active travel.

“But we must all play our part, and local councils and city regions should embrace opportunities for change, so everyone has the chance to be free from expensive and pollutant car overuse.”

Lead image: Dermot Hanney

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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