Campaigners propose new law for funding cycling and walking

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Six campaigning groups, including CTC, have come together to back amendments to the Infrastructure Bill which would force the Government to plan for greater investment in cycling and walking.
The new law would require Government to prepare plans for cycling expenditure
The new law would require Government to prepare plans for cycling expenditure

With transport funds diverted to major road building and other large infrastructure projects, cash for walking and cycling is in danger of falling off a cliff edge after 2016.

An amendment to the Infrastructure Bill, currently before Parliament, is due to be tabled by Lords Berkeley and Judd when the House of Lords returns from the summer recess.

It proposes a system of investment similar to that used for the railways, which has helped drive rail traffic to levels not seen since the 1920s.

The six organisations backing the amendment are CPRE, British Cycling, Campaign for Better Transport, CTC, Living Streets, and Sustrans. 

The Government would be required to publish a binding Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy and answer to Parliament if the ambitions in it were not met. The Strategy would be divided into four parts, setting out:

  • a long-term vision to increase walking and cycling rates across the whole population, in rural as well as urban areas; 
  • a ‘Statement of Funds Available’ for the next five years that would be spent specifically on cycling and walking;
  • a detailed Investment Plan of programmes and schemes - for example to improve cycle-rail integration, retrofit safe walking and cycling paths along busy roads and give provincial towns and cities London-style cycling measures and exemplary public spaces;
  • a Performance Specification of measures and targets - for example increases in cycling and walking levels, improvement in safety, and the proportion of schools and stations with safe routes to them. 

In the last five years, Germany has managed to increase cycling from 10 to 14% of all journeys, while England has staggered along at 2% since the 1990s. Walking fares no better: the National Travel Survey shows there has been a 30% decrease in the number of walking trips per person per year since 1995/97.

Last year, the report of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group's‘Get Britain Cycling’ parliamentary inquiry called for spending of at least £10 per person, rising to £20 as cycle use increases, in order to boost cycle use to 15% of trips by 2025 and to 25% of trips by 2050. Its recommendations earned an unopposed vote of support in a parliamentary debate last September attended by around 100 MPs. In July this year, the Commons Transport Committee echoed the report’s findings, calling for “a steady and planned increase in per-capita funding for cycling” from £2 currently to £10 per head by 2020.

In response to pressure from CTC and other cycling groups, from Parliament and from the Times newspaper's "Cities fit for cycling" campaign, the Government is expected to publish a Cycling and Walking Delivery Plan within weeks. However CTC and its allies fear that the Plan seems unlikely to be accompanied by the funding needed even to begin catching up with the levels of cycle use seen among our European neighbours.

Investing in better cycling conditions is an incredibly cost-effective solution not only for tackling congestion and physical inactivity, but also for creating safer, pleasanter streets and communities and a healthier environment for all.

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns & Policy Director

Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the organisation leading on campaigning for the amendment, said: “The combination of a tripling of spending on road-building, further cuts to local authorities and an end to ring-fenced budgets for sustainable travel will squeeze investment in walking and cycling. England desperately needs to catch up with neighbouring countries and make physically active forms of travel the norm for everyday journeys. But the funding picture is now so bleak, we risk not just huffing and puffing but actually dropping out of the race.”

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director of CTC, the national cycling charity, said: “Investing in better cycling conditions is an incredibly cost-effective solution not only for tackling congestion and physical inactivity, but also for creating safer, pleasanter streets and communities and a healthier environment for all. It also costs peanuts compared with mega-road projects. We really need to rethink our transport spending priorities on local solutions which benefit everyone, whether or not they choose to cycle.”

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It’s inexcusable that the Department for Transport says it can’t guarantee spending on walking and cycling beyond 2016, when it’s already doing that for rail and roads. With the Infrastructure Bill not expected to become law until March 2015, this amendment will keep the pressure on MPs right up to election.”

Martin Key, Campaigns Manager of British Cycling, said: “Outside London it’s as if the funding tap is going to be turned off for walking and cycling after 2016. This is not just about new safe routes for cycling or more attractive town centres - without guaranteed investment, local roads and pavements could crumble beneath our wheels and our feet.”

Phillipa Hunt, interim Chief Executive of Living Streets, said: “We need sustained investment to reverse this alarming decline in walking and to support people to make it their natural choice for short journeys. Walking interventions are low cost and deliver bigger returns than investment in roads – for local economies, local environments and people’s health and wellbeing.”

Jason Torrance, Policy Director of Sustrans, said: “Over the past four years we have witnessed the benefits of sustained investment in cycling and walking as local travel for many people across England has been transformed. While government makes long term investment in rail and roads, similar commitment is needed for cycling and walking so that everyone can have a real choice about how they travel for local journeys.”

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