Ministers play catch up on cycling and walking aims


The Government is to draw up a second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), having already fallen behind on the prime minister’s pledge of £2bn central government funding during the current Parliament.

In his flagship Gear Change document last year, prime minister Boris Johnson claimed that the £2bn pledge represents a sixfold increase in ‘dedicated’ cycling and walking funding, compared against the £386m dedicated funding from 2016-21.


In fact, the £2bn for 2020-25 is actually lower than the £2.4bn ministers claim to have spent over the current CWIS, from 2016-21. However, the majority of that cash was not ring-fenced and the headline figure was largely based on assumptions about the percentage of other spending that would end up allocated to cycling and walking.

The one-year 2020 Spending Review allocated just £257m for cycling and walking in 2021/22, which charity Cycling UK described as a 15% cut compared to approximately £300m during the current financial year.

Because total annual spending in the first two years of the Parliament has only been just over half a billion, the Government will need to spend nearly this amount every year for the next three years to meet the PM’s pledge.

Despite this, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris told MPs that the £257m ‘reflect[s] the ambitions set out in Gear Change’.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Heaton-Harris said: ‘The Government will set out plans for future years, including future funding for cycling and walking beyond 2021 to 2022, at the Spending Review later this year.’

He said: ‘I am today informing Parliament of my intention to publish as soon as possible thereafter a second four-year statutory cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS 2), reflecting the new policies in gear change and the multi-year funding settlement.’

Roger Geffen, policy director at Cycling UK, told Transport Network that the delay in publishing a new CWIS was ‘perhaps inevitable’ after the Treasury only set a one-year budget last autumn.

He added: ‘Yet, despite the urgent need to tackle the crises of congestion, pollution, inactivity-related ill-health and the climate, it means that investment in active travel is getting further and further behind what is needed to meet Government targets to double cycling and increase walking by 2025.

‘DfT will now have to double the rate of active travel investment, to have any chance of spending the £2bn earmarked to be spent by then. But even that is nowhere near enough. DfT’s own suppressed research apparently shows that even this sum is only a quarter to a third of what is needed to meet its own targets. Ministers seriously need to ramp up spending, while actively supporting councils to ensure the money is spent well.’

Among claimed spending on cycling and walking under within the first CWIS was £283m from the Highways Maintenance Fund.

In a document setting out the breakdown of spending under the first CWIS, officials noted: ‘Detailed spend Information on cycling and walking initiatives is not supplied by local authorities. Figures in the worksheet represent the total funding provided to local authorities through the Highways Maintenance Fund. Pre 18/19 estimates assume 5% on cycling and walking, 9% post 18/19 following funding formula amendments.’

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