On 31st January the government-appointed National Cycling Strategy Board ceases to exist. BA president and NCSB chair Phillip Darnton wants two new bodies to take over where NCSB left off: a policy and strategy body, and an executive body modelled on Cycle Scotland. But, at a meeting last week, civil servants said their government departments would not be able to find £70m to pay for the funding of these bodies in advance of the expected general election.

Cycle England may be formed but could be unfunded

Created in 1996, the National Cycling Strategy aims to "establish a culture favourable to the increased use of bicycles for all age groups; to develop sound policies and good practice; and seek out effective and innovative means of fostering accessibility by bike."

NCS board members include Sustrans’ John Grimshaw, transport writer Christian Wolmar and Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman.

When it was created, the NCSB was given a die-by date. It’s already benefitted from one extension, it won’t get another.

In October, Phillip Darnton presented a hard-hitting, future-facing report to the DfT, recommending the creation of two new, joined-at-the-hip bodies, Cycling England and the English Cycling Resources Board.

"The present level of funding for cycling via the [Local Transport Plan] at £44m pa should continue. In addition, there should be a new budget reaching £70m of central programme monies, focused on the specifics of the Strategic Action Plan," posited Darnton in October.

According to Darnton’s Bike to the Future report, some of the £70m – to be paid out of a number of government departments, including transport and health – would be spent on the marketing and promotion of cycling.

Minutes from a meeting of the board, held at the Department for Transport on 13th January, reveal that whilst the government appears to like the ideas in Bike to the Future, it won’t cough the cash to pay for it.

The minutes say that "significant extra funding might not be possible at present, as other government departments had not agreed to the levels of funding that would be needed as contributions to a core budget."

The Secretary of State for Transport was quoted as believing it would "not be feasible to establish an executive body if sufficient core funding was not assured."

The government admitted that "bringing the various cycling organisations closer together would be a positive outcome," and that "the possibility of fuller inter-working with the Department of Health was still open."

Given the 31st January cut-off for the National Cycling Strategy Board, the government may allow the creation not of a full-blown £70m Cycle England but a smaller scale executive body with a reconstituted board.

According to the minutes, it’s believed there’s "strong support for Bike for the Future from Ministers and officials in…government departments although there could be no absolute guarantees that all funding requests could be fully met in the future."

Transport writer Christian Wolmar thought that the position on funding was a "disgrace."

The time to guarantee funding was now, he said, and £10-£15 million should "be the figure to start with." Wolmar said the funding shortfall was proof that the government was "not taking cycling seriously."

Cash or no cash, Phillip Darnton believes Cycling England should be "established in some form, otherwise there would be a vacuum with no NCS Board, no cycling targets and no team in place."

Darnton is due to meet transport minister Charlotte Atkins next week.

National Cycling Strategy:


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