UK Government confirms £32.9m boost for walking and cycling schemes
Local councils across England are being invited to participate in a new multi-million-pound Government scheme to launch local walking and cycling schemes, with funding set aside for upskilling, infrastructure and communications.
The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed the £32.9m scheme on Monday (2 January), timing the announcement with the New Year in recognition of the fact that many Brits will be making resolutions to walk or cycle more.
Councils will need to apply for a share of the funding and will need to clarify their plans for ‘capability’ improvements and improving infrastructure. The former refers to training and retaining local members of staff – including engineers, planners and facilitators – to develop and deliver schemes. Staff will be supported to plan, consult, deliver and communicate schemes.
“Developing teams that lead active travel programmes will create more cost-effective and well-targeted projects,” the DfT said in a statement.
The DfT has stated that infrastructure options that could be eligible for funding include walking and cycling infrastructure on high streets, safety zones around schools and roads suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users.
Safety will be the main focus of all new designs and routes, given that DfT research has concluded that safety concerns are the top deterrent to cycling. These concerns impact women in particular, with eight in ten women polled by the DfT in support of more protected cycle lanes.
Aside from infrastructure, the funding will support cycle training schemes, school walking groups and subsidized bike rental schemes.
“If we want to enable hundreds of thousands more people to walk, wheel and cycle for everyday trips then we need to deliver high-quality schemes that make it feel easy, fun and safe,” said the Government’s National Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman.
“Of course, ensuring the right technical skills are in place at a local level is vital but so is engagement. Survey after survey has shown strong community support for making space for active travel but it’s vital that people get strong input into helping to decide what is the right solution for their area.”
Policy: Shifting gear?
The UK Government pledged £2bn to walking and cycling as part of its Covid-19 recovery plans – specifically the Ten-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The Plan also earmarked £3bn for decarbonising and expanding public transport networks.
It has since trialled ‘cycling on prescription’.
Nonetheless, the Government has repeatedly been warned that its plans for decarbonising transport do not place enough of a focus on modal shift – the need to ensure that more journeys are taken using active transport and other zero or low-carbon options. The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) most recent annual progress report to Parliament confirmed that the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, if enacted in full, will likely only bring about half of the emissions reductions needed through to the mid-2030s.
The current cost-of-living crisis may be a reason for the Government to rethink its approach. It is capping bus fares on thousands of routes across England at £2 until the end of March, recognising that costs and Covid-19 concerns have deterred members of the public from bus use in recent years. In launching the new walking and cycling funding, the DfT emphasised Cycling UK research concluding that motorists could save £126 per year by replacing short car journeys with bike rides.
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