The Chancellor's Autumn Statement is a mixed blessing for bikes
The Chancellor's Autumn Statement is a mixed blessing for bikes

Autumn Statement cuts fuel duty and pumps money into road schemes

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement isn't great news for cycling. New road schemes get almost £1bn, whereas there is only £42m extra for cycling over the next two financial years. At the same time fuel duty is being frozen, removing a key incentive to reduce car use.

The £42m earmarked for cycling over the next two financial years is thought to be additional funding to the £50m announced this year for projects such as enhanced cycle parking at rail stations and a fund to tackle the worst junctions.

The new funding will be allocated through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which so far has distributed £560m to almost 40 projects in England. Most of these schemes involve cycling in some way, though exact figures are not yet available. The new funding, however, appears to be dedicated solely to capital expenditure on cycling schemes.

This funding is a long way from nothing, but is still only around 40p per head per year of new money, in additional to any existing spending. Cycling UK has repeatedly pointed out that to achieve long-term improvements in cycling spending per head needs to be heading towards at least £10, as is common in cycling countries like the Netherlands or Denmark."

Roger Geffen
Cycling UK Campaigns and Policy Director

However, the additional spending is very little when compared with the money made available in the Statement for major road projects, such as £378m for upgrades to the A1 or £150m for one junction of the M25. Cycling may benefit from additional £333m funding available for local road maintenance, but it is likely that this will be concentrated on the busiest road network, rather than minor roads, which carry 80% of cycle traffic. 

Worse still, the Chancellor has scrapped the planned 3p extra on fuel duty, which would have raised over half a billion pounds, as well as acting as a major deterrent to driving. The scrapping of the rise in duty effectively acts as a cut, since other modes of travel (such as rail) see fares increase in line with inflation. Restricting motor traffic is recognised as the most effective means of increasing physical activity, such as cycling. 

Cycling UK will be hoping that a Prime Ministerial announcement on cycling in the New Year will set out significant next steps in improving both policy and funding for cycling.

Chris Peck