Businesses and campaigners have urged the government to providing meaningful funding for cycling as the consultation closes today into the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) – and warn that without it, the goal of doubling cycling levels over the next 10 years is impossible to reach.
Their comments come on the same day that the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – whose 2013 report, Get Britain Cycling, recommended a minimum spend of £10 per person per year – holds an inquiry into the CWIS, including hearing expert evidence.
The draft CWIS was slammed by campaigners when it was published in March, with British Cycling’s Chris Boardman said it is “not worth the paper it’s written on” without funding.
The sustainable transport charity Sustrans describes the current level of spend, which it puts at £1.35 per person per year, as “pitifully low,” and says that while billions are spent on roads, “cycling and walking projects remain woefully underfunded.”
In a report published today, Sustrans says that according to its calculations, £8.2 billion – or £17.35 per person per year – will have to be spent over the next 10 years if the government is to meet its target of doubling the levels of cycling over the next decade.
According to the Sustrans report, at that level of spend there would be an economic benefit to the country of £61 billion, with a cost/benefit ratio of eight to one.
Meanwhile, Sky, Halfords and Santander are among 40 businesses belonging to the #Choose Cycling network launched by British Cycling last year to have written a joint letter to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin warning that the government risks wasting a “huge opportunity” to transform walking and cycling.
In the letter, they call for:
• Better places to cycle, meaning a programme of building segregated cycle lanes in towns and cities across Britain
• Smarter investment in cycling by setting aside a greater proportion of the roads budget and budgets from related transport and infrastructure programmes
• Stronger leadership at national (Transport Secretary) and local level to ensure cycling is integrated in all infrastructure and devolution programmes to normalise cycling as a means of transport.
British Cycling policy adviser Chris Boardman, who chairs the network and will also give evidence at today’s APPCG enquiry, said: “If I were presenting the government’s cycling investment strategy as a workable proposal for any of the businesses in the #ChooseCycling network, I would be laughed out of the room.
“It is simply not possible to make cycling the ‘natural choice’ for short journeys by investing less than £1 per head – less than the cost of a cup of coffee. As the government run the country, I’d hope they know this.
“The longer cycling gets treated as an afterthought or a charity case, the longer we are missing out on a unique opportunity to create a healthier, happier and more active nation,” he added.
“This is no longer just something that people who already ride bikes want to see happen, this is something that 70% of people in Britain agree with and increasingly, as we have seen today, businesses across all sectors.”
Also giving evidence today will be Sustrans policy director, Jason Torrance, who said: “Government has made a bold pledge to double cycling but has simply not provided the financial means to achieve this and to reap the many benefits.
“Redirecting money from the currently allocated to the government’s £15 billion road building programme would cut pollution and improve health.
“Government needs to use the strategy to work in partnership with local authorities and the business sector to tackle chronic local problems such as pollution, congestion and obesity by investing in cycling and walking solve many of these problems cheaply.”
Also speaking to MPs at the APPCG inquiry this afternoon will be transport minister, Robert Goodwill.
APPCG co-chair Ruth Cadbury said: "The Cycling and Walking Strategy is a first for Government, so it is to be welcomed and deserves proper scrutiny.
"Our inquiry will seek to be assured that the Government is able to meet its laudable aim of making cycling “the natural choice for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey”.
“We will want to establish if the Government’s proposed funding of £300m is enough to meet their targets for greater rates cycling in the UK."
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.