For what is believed to be the first time in 15 years, the Department for Transport (DfT) has stated an ambition to reduce road traffic.
The words appeared in a document titled “Setting the First Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Getting Britain Moving”, with a timetable for developing the first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), which will be published in Summer 2016. A much-anticipated funding announcement is expected in winter or spring.
The document reiterates that walking and cycling should be “the natural choices for shorter journeys”, and the first consideration of any new street or maintenance programme. However, campaigners say there is a yawning chasm between the Department for Transport’s (DfT) aspirations for cycling, unveiled today, and the funding to make those aspirations reality.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement set out just £300m of funds for walking and cycling between now and 2021, which is just 58% of a projected £142m spent on cycling alone in 2015/16.
Roger Geffen MBE, CTC Policy Director, said: “After the Chancellor’s failure to provide meaningful support for cycling in his Autumn Statement, there is a yawning chasm between DfT’s admirable aims and the funding available.
“The only way to resolve this conflict is for transport ministers to reallocate some of George Osborne’s massive £15bn road budget towards cycling.
“We also need to see how the Government will live up to its aim of ensuring that space for cycling is incorporated into all new street designs and planned road maintenance works.”
The Department for Transport document sets out a timescale for development of the first CWIS, which states that a statement of funds available will be confirmed in Winter 2015/16, with a public consultation on the CWIS in Spring, and the first CWIS published in Summer.
It states: "By ensuring that cycling and walking are the first consideration of any new street design or maintenance programme we will ensure our streets are safer for our most vulnerable road users. Places with cycling and walking at their heart will help us to achieve our ambitions to tackle air pollution and climate change by reducing road traffic."
However, the CTC’s Sam Jones told road.cc the document is “filled with fine words that just don’t gel with what we have witnessed in the Chancellor’s Autumn statement”.
While the DfT has revealed an ambition to “tackle air pollution and climate change by reducing road traffic” for what the CTC believes is the first time in 15 years, this seems at odds with the £15bn investment the Treasury is making in its road building programme.
Jones calls the proposed £300m for cycling “peanuts” and points out most of the money was already allocated to projects such as Bikeability and the eight cycling cities, and equates to £1.39 per head, less than the £2 the Conservative government claimed was being spent on cycling when it entered into government.
The DfT document says it recognises the economic benefits of cycling on town centres through increased footfall, health of the workforce and reduced absenteeism but lays the emphasis on local communities and government in supporting more cycling .
It states: “At a time of increased devolution to local communities through structures such as combined authorities, we believe the CWIS is a once in a generation opportunity to transfer powers and funding to local people to support an increase in the number of people choosing to walk or cycle.”
Jones believes without central government leadership this transformation will not be possible. He says the Department for Energy and Climate Change is also notably absent from the document, given the challenge laid at Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin's, feet by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, last year.
He added the Road Safety Plan, mentioned in the 11-page document, has not yet been released by the Department for Transport, and that this is the first time it has been referenced in an official government document.