Cycling campaigners have slammed the Government’s investment strategy for cycling and walking as ‘a desperate attempt by officials to big up the pittance made available by ministers’.
Last year the Government said its Autumn Statement ‘commits more than £300m to cycling investment between 2015-16 and 2020-21’.
However the Department for Transport’s (DfT) draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, published last month, shares this funding across both modes and appears to dilute the commitment further.
The document’s account of the £300m financial resources for both modes over the period includes spending that the DfT itself describes as ‘unallocated’, as well as funds that were announced previously.
The Government's cycling investment includes Bikeability training
Cycling UK policy director Roger Geffen told Transport Network: ‘Although the Government’s so-called “investment” strategy opens with an admirable ambition to normalise cycling and walking by 2040, its spending plans are totally out of kilter with this aim. Spending on trunk roads and motorways is set to sky-rocket, while cycle investment plummets.
‘Hence this document is little more than a desperate attempt by officials to “big up” the pittance made available by ministers. I see no sign that the sums involved, or the way DfT plans to spend these, are remotely consistent with their entirely laudable aims.’
Breakdown of '£300m'
A DfT spokesperson told Transport Network that section 5.6 of the strategy provides a breakdown of the £300m funding.
This sets out £50m for ‘Bikeability’ training, £101m under the ‘Cycle Ambition Cities’ programme, £85m via Highways England, and £80m revenue funding from the Access Fund that succeeded the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).
Both the Cycle Ambition Cities funding and Highways England funding for cycling schemes were announced before the Autumn Statement.
The DfT told Transport Network that the strategy’s reference to the Access Fund ‘makes clear that all the successful projects will have to support cycling and/or walking in order to receive funding.’
However, the fund is not limited to cycling and walking schemes and the document describes the access revenue cash as ‘unallocated funding’.
Although guidance for the first £20m of the Access Fund says 'all bids must demonstrate some level of focus on walking and cycling’, it makes clear that bids without ‘a strong or very strong focus on cycling and walking’ are still eligible.
Other criteria for funding includes articulating ‘a future strategic vision for sustainable travel in relation to accessing jobs, skills, education and training’.
Criteria for the remaining £60m revenue funding have not been published. The DfT told Transport Network that these will be announced later this year.
A spokesman for Highways England said that, according to the company’s delivery plan, £78m over four years will be used to improve conditions for those cycling alongside and crossing the strategic road network, while a further £20m would be ‘specifically targeted at improving facilities to provide a more accessible and integrated network’.
He acknowledged that it was hard to say how much of the £20m will benefit cyclists directly but suggested that by improving accessibility and integration it would benefit cyclists, as well as other groups.