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Cycling UK accuses government of “airbrushing out” cycling’s post-pandemic role

“It’s impossible to have a ‘green recovery’ if we don’t actually invest in our future,” says charity's CEO...

Cycling UK has accused the government of “airbrushing out any role for cycling in plans for a post-pandemic recovery” after Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech made no mention whatsoever of active travel.

Nor was there any mention of it, or cycling or walking, in the full budget document published by HM Treasury – other than a passing reference to “sustainable travel” in allocating an additional £1.3 million in funding to The Falkirk Growth Deal in Scotland for the next decade.

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK’s chief executive said: “It’s right that the Chancellor sets out his plans for the future wellbeing and prosperity of the nation, but his and the Treasury’s complete disregard for cycling’s role in this future is a complete failure to make good on this Government’s plans to build back better.”

In February last year, Sunak said the government said would invest £2 billion in cycling and walking in England over the next five years.

To date, however, only £250 million of that has been made available - £225 million for the emergency active travel fund, and £25 million for the Fix Your Bike voucher scheme, and Cycling UK says that only £257 million has been sent aside for 2021/22.

That has led Cycling UK to warn that unless current levels of spend are doubled, the government will miss fulfilling its own spending commitments – as well as its target of doubling levels of cycling by 2025.

The national cycling charity believes that in any event even the £2 billion pledged would be insufficient to meet that target, and that investment needs to be raised to between £6 billion and £8 billion.

“It’s impossible to have a ‘green recovery’ if we don’t actually invest in our future,” Mitchell said. “Investment in cycling costs very little compared to other essential transport infrastructure, but has a huge return on investment.

“If this really is a government which plans to invest in new infrastructure, and which aims to ‘keep our streets safe’ and ‘support the most vulnerable’ then investing in cycling and walking makes simple economic sense.

“Instead of this, we have a budget that is airbrushing out any role for cycling in its plans for a post-pandemic recovery,” she added.

Cycling UK also pointed out that figures from the Department for Health reveal that for every £1 spent on cycling infrastructure, HM Treasury benefits to the tune of £13 – around four times the return on investment of £3.70 per £1 associated with road bypass schemes.

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.

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