Cycling UK says that the government is suppressing the findings of research into active travel funding from scrutiny by Parliament, maintaining that the data shows that current levels of spend are insufficient to achieve its own targets for growth in cycling and walking.
The claim was made by the national cycling charity’s policy director, Roger Geffen, as he gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry, Reforming public transport after the pandemic.
He told the committee: “The government has sat on research over the last 14 months, and our understanding is that it shows £2 billion is only about a quarter to a third of what is needed to meet the government’s own targets to double cycling and increase walking by 2025.
“It’s really important the government is clear about what its targets are and that it publishes the research which shows whether the funding is adequate to hit their targets and then act on the findings of the [suppressed] research as it sets its budgets for cycling and walking in the Spending Review.”
In February last year, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced funding of £2 billion for cycling and walking over the following five years, with the figure subsequently confirmed in the government’s Gear Change strategy.
During 2020/21, however, only £250 million of that has been made available – £225 million for the emergency active travel fund, and £25 million for the Fix Your Bike voucher scheme – and following last week’s Budget, Cycling UK pointed out that only £257 million has been allocated for 2021/22.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted to the parliamentary committee last month that £2 billion was adequate to meet the targets of doubling cycling trips in England, as well as growing levels of walking, contained in the 2017 Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
However, Geffen told the committee today that the report, which was commissioned by the Department for Transport, shows that the government is aware that £2 billion is insufficient for it to meet its targets, and that it should invest between £6 billion and £8 billion on active travel over the next four years.
“It is very disappointing that spending next year will be actually less on cycling and walking as things stand than what it was last year”, he told MPs.
“We’re going in the wrong direction rather than boosting local authorities’ capacity to scale up their abilities to spend at the levels we need to be spending if we’re going to meet the government’s targets.”
Following today’s session, he added: “The government has deliberately hidden evidence from Parliament by claiming that £2 billion would allow them to ‘make strong progress’ against their targets to encourage more cycling and walking. They need to publish the suppressed report and act on its findings as a matter of urgency.”
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.