Over the next few weeks, details of the Comprehensive Spending Review will be fleshed out by Government departments.
One thing is clear: cycling is now lower down the political agenda than at any time in the past ten years. The heady days of the National Cycling Strategy Board, founded in in 2000 and headed by a high-profile former transport minister, are long gone.
Today, the minister in charge of cycling, Norman Baker (pictured) is feted by one motoring journalist as "the most motorist-friendly Transport Minister I’ve come across."
Cycling England, the successor to the National Cycling Strategy Board, was given notice of abolition last week and in yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review it was revealed that the Local Sustainable Transport Fund would be given just £560m. This fund has to pay for bus, pedestrian and certain road safety schemes, as well as cycling schemes such as Bikeability.
Local Authorities will apply to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund for cash for cycling but, without a national body to recommend best-practice or monitor results, which was a key role of Cycling England, it’s unclear how money will be spent wisely. And, as local authorities are to get 28 percent less cash overall, it’s safe to assume many will dip into the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to pay for ‘road safety’ projects, such as filling in potholes.
While buses, bikes, pedestrians and road safety programmes fight for their share of £560m, those who can afford expensive electric cars will be given £5000 grants as part of a £400m programme to encourage the purchase of low-carbon cars. There’s no cash incentive scheme for the purchase of bicycles, the epitome of low carbon transport.
Despite claiming to be the "greenest UK Government ever" the transport part of the Comprehensive Spending Plan promised to invest heavily in spreading tarmac, dualling a number of roads and widening the M25 from junctions 16 to 25 and 27 to 30.
Peter Lipman, Sustrans’ Policy Director, said:
"Not surprisingly the spending review of transport has given us few sustainable options to bite on, save some commitment to public transport. Roads dominate, which does not bode well for walking and cycling.
"Sustrans believes that government transport strategies need to be far braver going forward if we are to be serious about improving health and energy security, reducing carbon and fostering long term economic prosperity. And of course living up to the coalition’s promise of being the greenest government ever."
However, there was better news for the sport of cycling. In the run up to the Olympics, funding for elite sport will be protected. This was welcomed by British Cycling.
British Cycling CEO Ian Drake, said:
“The fact that both UK Sport and Sport England are able to commit to existing funding levels through to March 2013 is extremely welcome news. Vitally, this creates the stability we need to focus on the job in hand ahead of London 2012, both in terms of elite performances and the wider growth and development of our sport.
“It is no surprise that the picture will change post-2012 and over the past 18 months we have already prepared for this by working hard to grow other revenue streams through membership and commercial partnerships, such as with our principal partner British Sky Broadcasting. That work will continue to ensure we will be well placed to build further on the excellent momentum gained over the past few years across all areas of activity.”