Cycling UK is urging people in England to write to their MP to ask them to protect active travel funding from widely expected cuts in expenditure across government departments.
The charity is warning of a potential Halloween “fright night” for cycling and walking when the Chancellor of the Exchequer – currently, Jeremy Hunt, although given recent turnover in the position it’s anyone’s guess whether he will still be in the role in 12 days’ time – presents the Budget on 31 October.
While funding for cycling and walking in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the devolved administrations in those countries, Cycling UK is very concerned that money set aside for active travel in England – according to the second Cycling & Walking Strategy for England (CWIS2), published in July this year – could be at risk.
On its website, the charity says: “Two years ago, the government published ‘Gear Change’ – their ‘bold vision for walking and cycling’, supported by an increase in funding for active travel.
“The increase was welcome, but investment in cycling and walking is still miniscule compared to other transport spending, even though the government acknowledges that the benefits of investing in cycling and walking are huge. It’s also not enough to enable every local authority to build the safe infrastructure needed, but there are now funding opportunities for some.
“But instead of increasing the funding and moving up the gears this Halloween, it looks like the government might back-pedal – cutting the active travel budget during a cost-of-living crisis, when people want and need cheaper transport choices.
2Investing in active travel brings higher and quicker returns than any other transport investment – so it’s absurd for a government focused on growing the economy to throw a spanner in the wheels of active travel.”
The charity has urged people to “Help us save the cycling and walking budget,” and has produced an editable email template, which you can find here, enabling constituents to email their MP “to tell them that investment in active travel can’t be cut, because it makes money for the local economy, makes us less dependent on imported fuel, saves people money, is a green and healthy solution to other crises, and just makes sense.”
In the wake of former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous ‘fiscal event’ – widely interpreted as a mini Budget – in late September, expectations are that HM Treasury will have to make swingeing cuts across Whitehall to try and balance the books.
And earlier this month, transport author and journalist Carlton Reid reported on Forbes.com that Andrew Gilligan – transport advisor to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and his cycling commissioner during his time as Mayor of London – had told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham that Active Travel England, set up earlier this year, could be at risk following the installation of Liz Truss as Prime Minster.
“I really do hope it survives the arrival of a new government,” Gilligan said. “But I'm hearing slightly worrying things that it might not,” he added.
Just last week, speaking at Transport Questions in the House of Commons, Department for Transport Minister of State Lucy Frazer admitted, in response to a question from the Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, Catherine West, that current levels of funding for cycling and walking were inadequate to meet the government’s own targets for active travel, themselves criticised by campaigners including Cycling UK as lacking sufficient ambition.
Simon joined road.cc 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.