Cycling has many well-known benefits, whether it’s for commuting, as a hobby or sport. It also offers environmental benefits – more people riding means fewer people driving and according to Sustrans, our dependency on using motor vehicles to get around has driven the climate change crisis. It costs the economy £7.9 billion a year through traffic congestion and is the major cause of air pollution in our towns and cities.
Last week, the Conservatives won a majority in the General Election. But with many people discussing Brexit, others were more focused on the issues that they face around them, such as health, congestion, decarbonisation and air quality.
So given the environmental benefits that cycling brings, what do the Tories have planned in terms of spending?
Its manifesto promises a ‘transport revolution’, saying a key part of its plan to level up the UK’s cities and regions is to connect them. It said it will support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together. It will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes.
It will also extend Bikeability to every child and will work with the NHS to promote cycling for healthier living. The Tories will also launch a pothole-filling programme as part of its National Infrastructure Strategy – and said its investment in roads will ensure new potholes are “much less likely to appear in the future”.
But is this £350 million enough? It translates to just £70 million a year, which Cycling UK says “opens up a chasm between what has been promised and what is actually needed”.
“Cycling UK is alarmed at the prospect of a new Government slashing the level of funding for cycling in England to less than a quarter of its current levels for the next five years,” says Cycling UK chief executive Paul Tuohy.
The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, launched in 2017, set out to double the number of cycling trips by 2025. However in a safety review document to support the strategy published towards the end of last year, the Department for Transport admitted that its current policy would only see cycling increase by a third over the next six years.
The Walking and Cycling Alliance wants £17 per person per year to be spent on active travel, rising to £34 per person by 2025. Spending is currently £7 per person annually. Sustrans’ manifesto for the election called on the next UK Government to provide a sustained long-term investment in walking and cycling, including at least 5% of the transport budget to be spent on walking and cycling by 2020/21, rising to at least 10% before 2024/25.
“The Conservative manifesto commitment would see the current £7 per head currently being spent on walking and cycling in England, outside of London to just £1.55 per head,” adds Tuohy. “This would be an abject failure by this incoming Government to address the climate, air pollution, congestion and inactivity-related health crises the country is now facing.”