Government allocates £200 million of active travel funding, but industry calls for further support

Millions of people across the country are set to benefit from £200 million of government funding for cycling and walking schemes.

Following consultation with local authorities, communities across England will benefit from new funding, with more than 265 schemes in 60 areas – including Yorkshire, Manchester, Devon and Leicester – receiving a share.

The investment, announced in February of this year, will deliver a range of schemes across the country, including 121 miles of new cycle track, 77 miles of new paths and greenways and initiatives to make streets safer around 130 schools.

Active Travel is also estimated to bring a £36.5 billion boost to the economy in a year through increased high street spending and better access to jobs.

Chris Boardman, national active travel commissioner, said: “By giving millions of people the freedom of choice to walk, wheel or cycle for everyday trips, this funding will help us improve public health, tackle climate change and give hundreds of thousands of children the independence to travel safely under their own steam.

“Now our focus is working with councils to get these schemes built swiftly. We’ll be working together to ensure the projects are well-designed and effective, so that they bring maximum benefits to communities and help improve lives nationwide.”

Despite the announcement, some industry stakeholders would like to see further steps taken as this round of funding comes from the previous 2022/23 financial year.

Matt Winfield, executive director for Sustrans England, Northern Ireland and Wales said: “The allocation of previously committed active travel funding is, of course, welcome news for ambitious local authorities and we’re excited to see their transformational projects take shape.

“However, the devil is in the details as active travel funding cuts announced in March mean investment will plummet over the next two years.

“This will put the UK back years in our collective goal of improving public health, cutting carbon emissions and supporting local economic growth.”

The active travel cuts Winfield refers to were confirmed by the Transport Secretary Mark Harper in a written statement ahead of the spring budget.

Although the figure wasn’t detailed in the statement, Sustrans estimates the cut to be around £200 million as it represents a two-thirds reduction of dedicated capital spending on active travel from £308m to £100m, over two years.

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James Metcalfe, founder of British e-bike brand Volt, welcomed the investment but wants to see more done so the UK can keep up with its European counterparts.

Metcalfe said: “Encouraging people to make the switch to sustainable transport will be crucial to help tackle the UK’s climate challenge, and should provide a major boost to the economy too. However, more needs to be done.

“In the future, we’d like to see the government invest more boldly to encourage cycling, similar to the action already taken by France, Germany, and the Netherlands. For instance, the government could offer subsidies for purchasing e-bikes, improve the availability of bike parking facilities in residential and office areas, or establish a nationwide financial incentive scheme.

“Delivering on infrastructure funding is a great start, but for the UK to encourage new riders to take up cycling, the government should look at additional ways to help support them as they get started.”

Daniel Blackham

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