Oxford and Cambridge, which have the highest levels of cycling in the UK, have together been awarded £9 million in Cycle City Ambition funding this week. But cycling campaigners in Cambridge, which has been given £6 million, say more money is needed, while those in Oxford say the £3.3 million it is receiving is being “misspent” on “low priority stuff.”
In particular, they say a planned bridge across the Thames for pedestrians and cyclists, spanning the river south of the city centre, just below the university college boathouses, is not needed.
It will link the Abingdon Road and Iffley Road areas and also provide a route from east to west Oxford that avoids much of the city centre.
Currently, there is no way of crossing the river between Folly Bridge to the north and Donnington Bridge to the south, a distance of around a mile.
Other planned works include a smaller bridge at Oxpens, close to the city’s railway station, and improvements to the Thames Towpath.
David Nimmo Smith, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for transport, told the Oxford Mail: “It’s excellent news. There’s a lot of government funding around and we are delighted that our scheme has ticked all the boxes.
“It will go a long way to help sorting out joined-up cycling networks and provide a route from Iffley Road into the centre.”
But Simon Hunt, chair of cycling campaign group Cyclox, insisted the money could have been put to better use. “It’s not well spent at all, it’s very bizarre,” he said. I don’t understand how this has come about.
“It’s not how we would have spent £3 million, it’s pretty low priority stuff. That doesn’t mean we don’t welcome the funding but we think it’s been misspent.”
He continued: “We need a joined-up network of main routes in the city, along the Botley Road, the Woodstock Road and the Banbury Road – it’s common sense to all cyclists.
“With that £3 million they could have improved those main routes for existing cyclists and with semi-segregated routes in both directions it’s the sort of thing that would bring new cyclists to the roads.I doubt this scheme will generate many more cyclists.”
Mr Nimmo Smith said: “I’m aware some cycling lobbyists don’t think this is the best use of the money but it’s not the end of the story. There will be future allocations that we will be going for.
“We want to end up with joined-up cycle routes inside and outside the city to make it safer and easier for cyclists,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire County Council’s cycling champion, Noel Kavanagh, said that a decision on how to spend the £6 million it has been awarded in the latest wave of Cycle City Ambition funding would be taken at a meeting of the council’s economy and environment committee next Tuesday.
He said: “Proposals include a shared cycle route from Lode to Stow cum Quy as well as a £2 million investment in a route along the A10 from Cambridge to Foxton.
"This new release of money could also help partly fund the new proposed Abbey to Chesterton Bridge which forms part of the Chisholm Trail.
“Funding could also go to the next phases in cycle safety improvements along Huntingdon, Hills and Trumpington Roads as well as other cross city routes.”
In a statement, Cambridge Cycling Campaign said it welcomed the funding and the projects it was being spent on.
“The schemes being funded are all welcome in opening up transport choice and reducing congestion, benefitting all road users,” it said.
“We are looking forward to working with the hard-working officer team at the County to ensure that schemes genuinely reach continental standards, avoiding shared-use pavements for instance.
“However,” the statement continued, “we are concerned that investment to make cycling safer in the surrounding area remains low.
“Excellent schemes such as a cycleway in the A10 corridor, and various initiatives in the Ely area, for instance, need to be progressed, and we call upon the government to provide funding for the Greater Cambridge area also.”
Cambridge Cycling Campaign also called for an end to “stop-start” funding for cycling, saying that investment was “basically treated by the DfT as spare change found down the back of the sofa.”
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.