Cycling UK says the Government’s recent allocation of Emergency Active Travel funding indicates which local authorities are serious about cycling and walking… and which are not.
With public transport capacity severely limited due to the coronavirus crisis, the Government fears that without large numbers switching to active travel, towns and cities’ roads will grind to a halt.
In an effort to encourage more people to walk and cycle, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £225m Emergency Active Travel Fund in May.
Writing in the foreword to new guidance, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The government … expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.”
While every council applied for funding, it seems not everyone totally got the message.
Announcing a first tranche of funding earlier this week, the DfT said that while some authorities who made strong bids had been given more than they requested, others would receive only 75%, 50% or 25% “based on the extent to which they aligned with the criteria.”
We highlighted the various winners and losers on yesterday’s live blog.
A second and larger tranche of funding will be announced at a later date.
Cycling UK has identified 23 councils in England whose plans demonstrate ambition and vision, but said the amounts given to many others represented a damning review of their plans.
“These funding allocations read like a half term report on English councils’ plans to get more people to walk and cycle as restrictions on movement ease,” said the charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore.
“Most of the class understands the risk of gridlock in their towns and cities if people who normally take public transport choose to drive over walking and cycling for shorter journeys. But there’s a disappointing percentage whose report cards will read, ‘Try harder’ and ‘Must do better’.”
A dozen councils – including popular cycling destination Surrey – received only 50 per cent of the funding available, and three received just 25 per cent.
'All talk' North Yorkshire County Council was among those to receive only half its bid. The Harrogate Advertiser reports that local campaigners still don't know what the council's plan consists of.
“We can only suspect there has been a lack of ambition and innovation for it to have not appealed to the government,” said the chairman of Harrogate District Cycle Action, Kevin Douglas.
"The council has talked about doing a lot of things for years, but nothing has been delivered and they give us all the excuses in the world."
In all of these cases, Cycling UK believes the councils in question showed a lack of understanding of what is needed to make active travel look and feel like a natural and safe option for short journeys.
However, the charity says it’s not too late to do more.
“Since lockdown began, Cycling UK and over 11,000 of our supporters have written to every council in England urging them to put in place temporary cycling measures,” said Dollimore.
“Many have got the message and submitted funding bids which recognised the need to reallocate road space. Those councils receiving less than was available need to be much bolder when applying for the second tranche of emergency active travel funding later this summer.
“Cycling UK would urge them to engage with the community, and not waste a second opportunity to submit meaningful and ambitious plans to create space for and prioritise the sustainable and safe movement of people.”
Cycling UK has created a web page which allows members of the public to engage with their councils.
The page also features the ‘Widen my path’ tool that allows users to make suggestions of where improvements for cycling and walking can be made.