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Research finds councils spend average of £2 per person per year on cycling infrastructure

Academics from Nottingham Trent University crucnhed numbers from 25 unitary authorities across England

New research has found that spend on cycling infrastructure by councils in England averaged just £2 per person per year over the past decade – with one spending an annual average of just 3p per capita.

Dr Seamus Allison and Aoife Allison of Nottingham Trent University obtained the figures following Freedom of Information requests to the 55 unitary authorities in England, which includes towns and cities including Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Leicester, Nottingham and York, with a full list here.

They do not include London boroughs nor cities including Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Oxford and Sheffield.

According to Cycling Industry News, the researchers asked for data relating to the population served by the authority, plus its total spend on road transport as well as cycling infrastructure.

Responses were received from 25 unitary authorities, with the remainder either not replying or saying that they do not split out keep separate records of spend on cycling infrastructure.

Among the 25 unitary authorities that did reply, the average spent per head each year was £2.02, rising to £2.83 in 2018/19. With spend averaging £2.58 during the latest five years, that could indicate a slight increase in spend, but inflation is the most likely explanation.

The highest average annual spend per person was £8.58 and the lowest £0.03, while in some years a number of the unitary authorities that replied spent nothing on either new infrastructure or on maintenance. The maximum spent in any one year by an individual authority was £37.23.

Currently, there is uncertainty over exactly how much the government plans to spend on cycling in England outside London over the next five years.

The Conservative manifesto ahead of December’s general election pledged £350 million for the lifetime of the next parliament, a figure repeated in the House of Commons earlier this month, although Downing Street sources subsequently said he was mistaken “and in fact it’s about £1 billion now.”

> Prime Minister’s confusion over cycling funding reflects Downing Street “chaos” says MP

This week, however, in response to a question from Ruth Cadbury MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling and Walking Group, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris would only say that “A significant proportion” of the £5 billion announced for buses and cycling would “be allocated to cycling and walking, with further details to be announced at the forthcoming Budget and Spending Review.”

Whatever the figure, it will clearly be below the £17 per person per year the Cycling & Walking Alliance has called for, rising to £34 by 2025.

Dr Allison said: “The data suggests that English local authorities are not investing in cycling infrastructure at anywhere near what has been called for by active travel organisations.

“What’s more, the fact that so many admitted that they do not record the spend on cycling suggests that they do not see this as a priority and are unlikely to have targets in this area. This appears to support the view that three-quarters of Britons feel their local authority does not take cycling seriously.” 

“Our collection and analysis of this data is important because, despite the many accepted benefits of active travel – for example it has been shown there is 15:1 to 19:1 benefit-to-cost ratio for cycling investment and a single “cycling city” could be worth £377 million in savings for the NHS – despite broad support from the UK population for investment in cycling infrastructure and despite positive noises from national politicians, there is little evidence to suggest that at the local level, where we as individuals are most likely to be impacted, plans and attitudes are in place that are likely to deliver either governmental aims or those of cycling bodies.

“The local reality suggests that the UK remains as far away as ever from achieving David Cameron’s 2013 goal of turning the UK into a cycling nation comparable with the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany,” he added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 years ago
1 like

It would be interesting to see what is spent in London. Some boroughs are doing excellent / good stuff; Camden, Hackney; Enfield . . .  the usual places. Others not so. Getting in and out of central London is feasible on goodish infrastructure from every direction. This is not to say it's 'Copenhagen' yet.  The outer boroughs are unpleasant and hostile in general. 

srchar replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 years ago

Enfield have excellent intentions, however the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Green Lanes was more pleasant to cycle along before the bike lanes. Nice, wide roads, generally quite low traffic speeds and no drivers trying to use their cars to force you into bike lanes that in many places aren't at all suitable for making progress.

Helpfully, local plod tweeted that drivers should be aware that cyclists who wear lycra and ride "expensive racing bikes", aren't mandated to use the bike lanes. So, that calmed the frothers down. Not.

ktache | 3 years ago
1 like

I wonder which was the one who spent th 3p.

eburtthebike | 3 years ago

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  This is just so far below what everyone agrees is needed that it's farcical.  At this rate we'll never catch up the Dutch and there will never be a significant modal switch to cycling, which everyone agrees is the most beneficial use for transport funds, which are being wasted on ego schemes like HS2.

The ultra shambles of a government doesn't even know how much it's spending or will be spending, they just keep repeating the same lies, but what do you expect with Boris the Liar and his sidekick Cummings the Contemptible in charge?

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