What does the Spending Review mean for cycling?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled 2020’s Spending Review, with £257 million announced for cycling and walking in 2021/22 in order to encourage more active travel.

However, according to Cycling UK, the Government is ‘failing’ to meet its own commitments and objectives for funding cycling and walking in England, with the wider funding package ‘completely at odds’ with the Government decarbonisation strategy. Funding for cycling and walking was £300 million in 2020/21, meaning it has decreased by 15% in this year’s review, added the charity.

“The Government’s ‘Gear Change’ document released in the summer set out a bold vison for cycling and walking in England, but neither that nor the promised ‘Green Revolution’ can be delivered without substantially increasing investment,” said Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns.

“The £257 million set aside for active travel next year is less than 1% of the £27.4 billion roads budget the Government remains stubbornly wedded to. Reducing next year’s funding by around £45 million makes the delivery of the Government’s own targets to increase levels of cycling and walking almost impossible, without the radical shift in transport spending priorities required to decarbonise transport.

“The Government’s vision and stated ambition for active travel are impressive, but this spending review takes us backwards when it comes to delivery.”

Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said there is a “wider concerning disconnect” between the Government’s aims and ambitions and the policies it is putting in place.

“[Yesterday’s] Spending Review put aside a welcome £257 million for walking and cycling in 2021/22 alongside more funding for local road maintenance,” said Brice. “This can be used to create better places for walking and cycling and to connect communities to the things they need. It is a fraction of the £2 billion promised by the Government over this parliamentary term and we look forward to the funding increasing over the coming years to help us reach net-zero, tackle physical inactivity, reduce air pollution and create more liveable towns and cities.

“There is a wider concerning disconnect between the Government’s aims and ambitions and the policies it is putting in place. Aspiring to achieve a truly greener future and reach net zero is not possible alongside a spending commitment to the greatest road building programme ever which will drive up demand for car use and carbon emissions – largely negating any carbon benefits from a switch to electric vehicles. Instead, more investment should be targeted at helping people make fewer journeys by car.

“Sustrans is pleased to see the new £4 billion ‘Levelling Up Fund’ but it is important that this is used to tackle the real issues of equality and equity between communities, and is invested in making vibrant high streets and town centres, including sustainable and affordable travel options. Allowing this funding to be invested in new bypasses or road schemes will only increase car use and do little to tackle these problems.

“Fundamentally in the longer term, we will need to build on the £2 billion allocated to walking and cycling and ensure that changes to the planning system deliver more 20-minute neighbourhoods, where everyday services can be reached easily and safely in a 20 minute return walking trip.”

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