In the third of a five-part series looking at the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy consultation, Martin Key, British Cycling campaigns manager, looks at the funding made available to deliver the strategy.
Building the type of cycle lanes needed to hit the government’s growth target is much more affordable than any other form of transport infrastructure but that doesn’t mean it can be done on the cheap.
Earlier I rode the newly opened E/W cycle superhighway - reflects growing popularity of bike & safety investment pic.twitter.com/UY8nFXyFun— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) May 6, 2016
You could start a national strategy for the nation on £650 million per year, the same price it’s costing to upgrade Bank underground station. This level of investment is needed consistently, year on year, to hit the growth targets.
Instead the government’s strategy sets out the equivalent of just £60 million of dedicated funding per year over the course of this parliament. This means that the strategy will herald a reduction in government funding which is quite astonishing for the nation’s first ever cycling investment strategy.
The way the government seeks to put an optimistic outlook on the funding situation is by identifying the pots of money which local authorities receive which could be spent on cycling if they choose to do so. The Local Growth Fund, Highways Maintenance Block and Integrated Transport Block could all theoretically be spent on cycling. Of course it is up to local areas to choose to do this but - in a time of diminishing public spending – how many will?
If the government is serious about increasing the share of journeys that are cycled then it must increase the share of investment. Funds need to be reallocated from spending blocks such as the £15 billion Roads Investment Strategy, public health and from other appropriate sources.
In the short term, while negotiations take place to secure additional funding, the strategy should set out the incentives and mechanisms local authorities can use to identify funding.
Chris Boardman said that the strategy “won’t be worth the paper it’s written on” without meaningful funding. Chris has seen previous strategies fail mostly due to a lack of funding and he does not want it to happen again.
In the next blog we will look at how the government intends to assess the performance of the strategy.