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“Chronic underfunding” of active travel makes England the “poor relation” compared to Scotland and Wales says Cycling UK

Charity backs new Institute for Public Policy Research report calling on next government to ramp up spending

Cycling ​UK insists that “chronic underfunding” of active travel has made England the “poor relation” when compared to Scotland and Wales, both of which benefit from much greater investment per capita in cycling and walking.

As a result, people living in England are being denied health opportunities and an improved environment where they live, says the charity, which has backed a report published this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) entitled Stride and Ride: England's path from laggard to leader in walking, wheeling and cycling.

The report highlights that just 2 per cent of the transport budget in England goes towards active travel infrastructure, and that between 2016 and 2021 £24 per head was spent each year in London, but just £10 in England outside the capital. Meanwhile, spending on roads in England is equivalent to £148 per person per year

(Editor – the figure for England excluding London is now estimated to be as low as £1 per person per year going forward after funding was slashed earlier this year).

> “Crackpot conspiracy theory” led to government slashing active travel funding

Those figures compare to current spending per person per year on active travel of £38 in Scotland and £22 in Wales.

Underlining how cycling and other forms of active travel contribute not only to improved physical and mental wellbeing but also boost economic growth, including through the creation of new jobs, and benefits the environment, the IPPR is calling for a minimum of £35 per head to be spent each year on physical infrastructure under a ten-year investment guarantee.

That’s one of five key recommendations in the report, as follows:

Put in place a 10-year investment guarantee for walking, wheeling and cycling in England that covers the period from 2025–35. This should include a commitment to spend at least £50 per head on active travel in England by 2029-30, £35 of which should be on physical infrastructure. For the entire fourth cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS4) period (2030–2035), spending should be equivalent to at least 10 per cent of the total transport budget (roughly £2 billion per year).

Funding should be drawn from multiple sources. This should include new green investment of at least £225 million per year, and the reallocation of a proportion of transport funding currently earmarked for road expansion during this period.

Wherever feasible, active travel funds should be allocated as part of singlepot, long-term funding settlements to local and regional authorities, and be coordinated and administered with the support of Active Travel England (ATE). The settlements should ensure a minimum level of investment in active travel and have clear outcome-based requirements.

The National Cycle Network should have a 10-year investment plan. This funding would be administered via ATE, who should play an active role in prioritising schemes, monitoring progress, and evaluating impact.

Urgently produce a national transport strategy for England, covering all domestic transport modes, which sets out a vision for the future of the transport system and the goals that all transport spending should seek to achieve, including a fair reduction in car use.

“Spending on active travel is one of the most secure investments that a government can make, something that the new report by IPPR makes crystal clear,” said Cycling UK’s chief executive, Sarah Mitchell.

“People want the choice to walk, wheel or cycle to get around their local neighbourhoods, but they can’t do it without a well-designed, joined-up network of suitable paths.

“When it comes to investing in active travel, Scotland and Wales are investing to reap the benefits that come from increased spending, while England remains the poor relation.

“It seems the UK government didn’t get the memo and we therefore hope this new research will shift attitudes across Westminster so that walking, wheeling and cycling shoots up the list of investment priorities.

“It’s never been more important to prioritise investing in schemes like the National Cycle Network and we fully support IPPR’s call for the NCN to have a ten-year investment plan,” she added.

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.

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5 comments

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

'Meanwhile, spending on roads in England is equivalent to £148 per person per year'
we need to quote that every time someone says 'you don't pay road tax'. Yes, we do. We subsidise your car use. 

Avatar
wtjs | 3 weeks ago
9 likes

People want the choice to walk, wheel or cycle to get around their local neighbourhoods

If you're referring to the great majority, they want the choice to drive on empty roads and park where they like and may well decide to vote for whoever promises them those choices- like they did for Brexit

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to wtjs | 3 weeks ago
1 like

True - and there's always those willing to get fooled again.  Or who're amused by the those "driver's dream" adverts - free from other drivers.

I'd speculate most folks know this is not quite the reality now and may be less so in the future - because we're mostly urban.  They don't see alternatives though, or rather won't consider them until driving that journey is less convenient.

Avatar
don simon fbpe | 3 weeks ago
1 like

What's in it for a tory donor?

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eburtthebike | 3 weeks ago
1 like

“Spending on active travel is one of the most secure investments that a government can make, something that the new report by IPPR makes crystal clear,”

Only for those who look, and sadly, like so many drivers, this government is a blinkered, one-eyed telescope held to the wrong eye, kind of government: or tories as they are commonly known.

I wonder if their lack of vision and failure to see is what makes them the party of the driver?

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