The Government has announced funding for cycling schemes that it describes as “the biggest ever single injection of cash for the country”, as far as cycling infrastructure is concerned.
Perhaps significantly, the announcement says that new trunk road schemes that have a significant impact on cyclists, such as junction improvements or road-widening, will be ‘cycle-proofed’ so they can be navigated confidently by the average cyclist. The sums being proposed to ‘cycle-proof’ trunk roads are not by any means huge (if we are talking about Government spending!), however.
“Significant junction upgrades and other improvements will help cyclists at 14 locations on the trunk road network where major roads can prove an obstacle for journeys by bike,” the Government notes. “£5 million will be invested in upgrades this year and a further £15 million will be invested in 2015 to 2016, with plans in place for many more similar schemes.”
The announcement of new funds for cycling also includes a commitment from the Government “to cut red tape that can stifle cycle-friendly road design and to encourage changes to the way roads are built or altered”. What this specifically means, an accompanying briefing document reveals, is that the Government is planning to remove the need for local authorities to obtain a Traffic Order before they can create mandatory cycle lanes, contraflow cycle routes and exemptions for cyclists.
In terms of where the new money is going, £77 million will be divided between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich, while the New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor will each share a slice of £17 million funding for national parks. With local contributions, the total new funding for cycling is £148 million between now and 2015, the Government says.
Labour’s response to the Government’s announcement of new funding for cycling was to point out that it represents something of an about turn in the coalition’s attitude to the bicycle. “No amount of cynical spin… will make up for the fact that, immediately on taking office, he [Prime Minister David Cameron] axed Cycle England, the Cycle Demonstrations Towns scheme and the annual £60m budget to support cycling that he inherited,” shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle told the BBC. “Only last month the Prime Minister set out plans for Britain’s roads that failed to include a single commitment to the investment in separated cycling infrastructure that is the best way to boost cycling and make it safer.”
Professor David Cox, chairman of the CTC cycling group, however, praised the Government’s announcement, claiming that the Government had shown “leadership” on cycling.
According to the DfT’s own website, meanwhile: “Between April 2008 and March 2011, the Department for Transport, the Department of Health and Cycling England invested over £140 million to promote cycling… Part of this investment (around £50 million) was used to create one Cycling City and eleven Cycling Towns (CCTs).”
Putting the scale of the Government’s latest burst of spending on cycling in context, Richard Westcott, the BBC’s transport correspondent, summed things up nicely. “£94m might sound like a decent amount of money but how many cycle lanes does it buy you?” he asked rhetorically. “Actually, it’s not a simple question because it depends on where they are, whether you have to redesign complex road junctions and whether it’s a newly-built lane or some paint on a road. Still, to give you some idea, four new cycling superhighways in London, stretching to about 40 miles in total, recently cost £35m. As I understand it they were more complex and therefore more expensive than most, but still, you’re looking at just under £10m each. Cycling campaigners tell me the £94m is a good start, but say far more money is needed over a prolonged period of time to really spark a cycling revolution.”