The Government has admitted that current spending will only get England about 40 per cent of the way to its target of doubling cycling trips by 2025. While there are suggestions that more cash may be allocated to active travel later this year, the fragmentary nature of the funding, combined with the need for local authorities to plan ahead, means time may already be running out.
The Government today published its first report to Parliament on its progress delivering its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), which was first announced in 2017.
While the flagship £191m Cycle Ambition Cities programme has seen increases in active travel on key routes across eight cities, and the now-extended Bikeability training programme has helped hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren per year, Department for Transport (DfT) analysis indicates that current funded policy will account for only around 40 per cent of the government’s goal of doubling cycling by 2025.
Writing in the introduction, Cycling and Walking Minister Chris Heaton-Harris admits: “Substantial further investment is therefore required over the next five-year period.”
He states: “I recognise that we still have some way to go to deliver the ambition set out in the Strategy. The forthcoming multi-year ‘Spending Review’, expected later in 2020, will be the vehicle for identifying both the scale and type of investment required to meet our aims and targets and for considering any revisions to our existing objectives.”
One striking element of the report is the sheer number of different active travel funding sources and that in itself presents a challenge for local authorities.
Councils will, in many cases, have to be more strategic in where they’re finding funds than in where they’re constructing infrastructure.
If you’ve tracked the progress of any major cycle project, you’ll be aware that lengthy lead times can be expected. This shortens the window for hitting the Government’s target even if more funding does become available ‘later in 2020’.
Cycling UK Policy Director, Roger Geffen, called for consistent funding earmarked specifically for walking and cycling.
“Ministers have at least admitted that current spending predictions are only get England about 40 per cent of the way to the target to double cycling trips by 2025, and that they intend to address this in this summer’s Spending Review,” he said.
“However we don’t just need a lot more funding. We also need more consistent funding which is clearly earmarked for cycling and walking, and design standards for cycle-friendly roads, streets and junctions, to ensure the money is well spent.
“Only then can local authorities plan ahead, recruit and train staff, develop comprehensive cycle network plans, draw up and prioritise particular schemes and deliver them on the ground to high standards. Then at last we can really maximise the benefits of cycling investment.”