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Too much Cycle City Ambition… and not enough cash

At least £80million of Cycle City bids chase £30million govt funding as UK cities look to invest in cycling

At least seven bids totalling nearly £80 million have been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) to try and win a slice of the £30 million Cycle City Ambition cash for cities in England announced by Minister for Transport Norman Baker in January.

Up to three cities, possibly only one or two, will be successful given the current level of funding available. If even just two of the three most ambitious bids were chosen, the combined amounts involved would be greater than the £30million total available.

The deadline for applications was last Tuesday 30 April, and has identified seven separate bids for the money available - according to on report there are as many as 20.

Even seven bids means that demand outstrips supply by a factor of 2.5 to 1 – this will go much higher once full details of all of the bids become available.

The cities we have so far identified (we’ll be carrying out further research to find others), and the sums that local authorities or passenger transport executives concerned are seeking according to the sources we have seen, are:

Manchester (TfGM) £20 million
Leeds/Bradford (Metro) £18 million
Birmingham £17 million
Bristol £10 million
Nottingham £6 million
Cambridge £4.1 million
Norwich £3.4 million

Other cities believed to have put forward bids include Oxford, Southend and Ipswich, and we have asked the DfT whether it is able to confirm how many bids have been submitted in total and where they have come from.

The actual sums those cities contemplate investing should their bids prove successful is substantially higher, due to a match funding requirement stipulated by the DfT – Cambridgeshire County Council, for example, would match-fund to the tune of 50%, seeking £4.1 million from the DfT for schemes worth a total £8.2 million.

Now we at are under no illusions that the UK has a long, long way to go in matching the levels of investment in cycling, not to mention quality of infrastructure and other issues such as presumed liability that are so common on the Continent.

But we’re encouraged that so many cities are now firmly committed to investing in cycling, and to stumping up the cash in terms of match funding that would make their plans become reality - assuming their bids were successful.

Certainly, in the nearly five years since was founded, we believe there has been a noticeable increase in interest in investing in cycling infrastructure by local authorities that has accelerated over the past year to 18 months. A number of factors can be assumed to have contributed, the example set by successive adminstrations in London and what might be termed the London effect as cycling becomes more mainstream in the capital and London centred national media projecting that out to the rest of the country –  The Times Cities fit for Cycling campaign has provided a focal point for those who had been lobbying for improvements for years, and via a channel that politicians had to take seriously. In cash straitened times it is probably also the case that the message is starting to get through about the cost effectiveness of investment in cycling.

There’s little doubt either that Olympic and Paralympic success last summer, together with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and, the previous year, Mark Cavendish taking the world title have not only raised the profile of cycling as a sport, but also encouraged people to take to two wheels.

There’s a long way to go, and it’s clear that for every local authority keen to promote cycling and pump cash into it, there are others whose way of thinking is still built around the car.

The CTC and British Cycling have both said in no uncertain terms that the next step is to ensure that the Get Britain Cycling report has a chance of being debated in Parliament by getting 100,000 people to sign the e-petition posted by The Times urging Prime Minsiter David Cameron to act.

Cycling organisations are urging cyclists, their families, and friends to sign the petition, If you haven’t signed the petition yet, you can find it here and so can your family and frinds. The faster it reaches the 100,000 signature target the more likely it is to win debating time in parliament and the greater the chance of speeding up the process of making our streets, towns and cities safer and more pleasant places for everyone.

The peitition currently totals 53,401 signatures, if you can add it that please do - we will continue to bring you regular updates on the peitition's progress. .

In the meantime, if you are aware that your local authority has submitted a Cycle City Ambition bid, please let us know in the comments.

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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Peter Rogers | 10 years ago

Bristol, Bath & NE Somerset and South Gloucestershire's bid is in the link below. The remaining West of England Partnership local authority, North Somerset, didn't join the bid, for reasons which remain unclear but may be related to a discernable lack of enthusiasm for cycling (or cyclists) within the Council's leadership team.

antigee | 10 years ago

sadly part of the outcome from this will be the majority of the plans will get shelved because they won't win the funding - local authorities need to look at their priorities on what gets funded in road programs - but taking money away from road "improvements" that mainly encourage driving by reducing peak period congestion is political suicide so the small proportion of the total spend that went directly to cycle schemes and pedestrian safety will get even smaller and councils will simply point the blame at lack of central government funding for schemes rather than taking a leap of faith and changing spending priorities

bringiton | 10 years ago

I've read the Leeds/Bradford documents. They're a massive improvement on the current baseline - but then, that doesn't say very much. The minimum lane sizes are too small for stronger cyclists to overtake and it seems silly that, because value is calculated per minute used, the slower you design the lanes to be, the more they seem to be worth. That said, you're dealing with retrofitting infrastructure, and you have to work with what you have.

The Manchester bid documents I can find look a lot snazzier and potentially more ambitious, but I'm inclined to think they're spreading the money too thinly - one badly designed junction is all it's going to take to stop people using the network. In the absence of any coherent national design framework, councils need to ensure they're developing examples of good practice.

farrell | 10 years ago

Interesting. I've not read the bid as I can't see it coming to fruition, I probably should give it some time though, even though if they win the funding, it wont even resemble the original plans once they have done it on the cheap and squandered the money.

You couldn't trust TfGM with a box of crayons let alone that sort of cash.

dlparr | 10 years ago

farrell, if you read the bid on the tfgm website, the Bridgewater Canal is one of the main schemes within the bid!  39

Matt eaton | 10 years ago

Sorry to be the eternal pesimist but I can't imagine this money being put to much use.

The problem with our town and city roads is that it is all-but impossible to incorporate meaningful cycle infrastructure into the existing road network. I did a jouney through town yesterday where segregated infrastructure may have benefited me (1yr old daughter on the back and traveling much more slowly than usual, particurly at junctions). There are a couple of multi-lane junctions on the route which are not very cycle freindly, particually at slower speeds, and I started to think, hypothetically, about how the route could be improved. I concluded that you would have to knock down a good number of houses and construct a series of bridges or tunnels in order to create a segregated network that would work effectivly. I don't think it's going to happen. The local authority has obviously considered at least one of these junctions as there are cycle lanes painted on the footway but without any thought as to how you enter or leave them (no drop kerbs etc.) and which force you to act as a pedestrian (you cannot turn right if using the cycle lane and have to dismount and cross a number of roads on foot instead). Unfortunately the answer to the 'problem' of cyclists for many local authorities is simply to get them off of the roads and on to the pavements, even if this undermines the bicycle's usefulness as a vehicle.

Leviathan replied to Matt eaton | 10 years ago
Matt eaton wrote:

I concluded that you would have to knock down a good number of houses and construct a series of bridges or tunnels in order to create a segregated network that would work effectivly.

Who wants a segregated network? I want clearly marked, well paved bike lanes that are part of the road network. Segregation means I just get stuck behind the slowest cyclist with no way of getting back on the road, and if I do go on the road, which I have a right to do, motorists will feel doubly pissed at me. Segregation means you can't just get to a junction and make your turn, you have to go through some hammer head that forces you to stop for the traffic flow and wait for the lights at every single junction.

Repave the road
Paint the cycle lane
Stop people parking in them
That is all that it will take, no damn special schemes.

Leviathan | 10 years ago

Under what criteria would the many loosing bids NOT deserve to win? It is ridiculous to say that major cities and towns across the whole country are going to loose out and have to wait, meanwhile no change happens and the roads get worse.

WolfieSmith | 10 years ago

I'll be surprised if Liverpool do anything meaningful. . The mayor Joe Anderson is maximising his press coverage for the Boris bikes he's getting in (free with a ring fenced £2.5m) for a city with a centre that mainly pedestrianised with no bikes allowed and that takes 15 minutes to walk across.

Meanwhile cycle commuters are still struggling on half thought out piss poor cycle routes. There was a death last week. Admittedly it was a poor guy in a wheelchair run down at the entrance to the docks but with no drop kerbs on one side of the junction and a derelict path it was bound to happen to someone. Meanwhile Peel Holdings ( who own Salford Quays and both Pinewood and Shepperton Studios) are going ahead with major builds with no proper consultation about cycle.

Cycling just has no voice or lobby power in many cities. Cycling is still a nuisance to highways department and only considered if they are forced to do so. It's so blinkered it makes me weep with frustration.

pmanc replied to WolfieSmith | 10 years ago

Interesting that MediaCityUK is one of the "City Partners" for the Manchester bid, despite Peel having done a terrible job of building any clear consistent cycle facilities into the much-hyped MediaCity development.

WolfieSmith replied to pmanc | 10 years ago

Yep. And they're building Liverpool Waters with the same lack of interest for cycling. Peel: soon coming to a city near you....

farrell replied to WolfieSmith | 10 years ago
MercuryOne wrote:

Yep. And they're building Liverpool Waters with the same lack of interest for cycling. Peel: soon coming to a city near you....

The Trafford Centre is one of their monstrosities as well, Lord knows how you would get (safe) access to that on a bike.

They also own the Bridgewater Canal, which rather than being updated to be an excellent facility for cyclists to get in and out of the city centre is being left to rot with "No Cycling" signs being put up more and more often.

Doctor Fegg | 10 years ago
Al__S | 10 years ago

Some of Cambridge's plans are OK, but frankly fail at the word "ambition". 2.5m bi-directional paths? 2m shared use paths? Not exactly "ambitious".

spatuluk | 10 years ago

Even though I live in Manchester, I really hope TfGM don't get a penny of it.

They'll have a load of half-baked, overpriced ideas, they'll build them on the cheap, and in 2 years time the stuff they've built will be falling apart.

Give the dosh to a council with a better history of sanity/road upkeep.

Gkam84 | 10 years ago

As I said in the forum thread

"I am against the government giving more money out to paint some marks on the road and "make cycling safer" until a proper NATIONAL plan is in place, not just region by region. It needs to be a nation wide plan, so that EVERYONE is singing from the same sheet, else we will have huge differences in what local area's put in place."

So by a national plan, I mean, if you want funding, you stick to the rules laid out by a decent selection of bodies that put something together. So cycle paths, crossing sections....etc and ALL places submitting bids would be had to stick to these rules.

pmanc | 10 years ago

A shame this article doesn't include any links to any bid documents.

According to a Newcastle presentation here:

...there are First Wave cities (Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham) and smaller Second Wave cities.

And it states "The Government expects to support one First Wave and two Second Wave cities.".

Of course I don't know if this is correct.

And I'm biased, but Go Manchester!

sponican | 10 years ago

Portsmouth and Southampton have put in a joint bid, totalling about £5 million.

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