Funding for cycling: what’s next?

Cycle traffic lights on green with cyclist out of focus in background
Cycle traffic lights on green signal hope for the future of Funding for Cycling and Walking
In this time of unprecedented political and social uncertainty, what we stand up for really matters. Changing the minds of our politicians however is rarely an immediate process, but that is not a reason to not try and try again. Cycling UK campaigner, Caroline Grogan explains how eventually the message will and does get through.

Thank you 

Cycling UK’s supporters are at the heart of our organisation’s campaigning. Without them, the time they dedicate and their willingness to mobilise for what is right, much of our campaigning work would not be possible. 

That’s why as an organisation, we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who is supporting our Funding for Cycling and Walking campaign in England. Their – and possibly your - support is helping us to create a long-term movement to get millions more people cycling.

Over the past year, 11,500 supporters showed their council leaders, MPs, and Ministers (old and new), that they believe their communities deserve to be better places. That where they live should be places where the air is clean, the high street is thriving and where their families, friends and everyone really can walk and cycle safely.

Liveable spaces 

This however cannot be done for free. It’s not rocket science what is needed, and it’s also definitely not as costly as sending someone to space!

What is needed is better infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes and joined up networks of routes which will let your child cycle safely to school, your partner to work or you to the shops.

Cycling is safe, but the majority of people who want to cycle, are put off because their perception is that it is dangerous. Build a safe environment for people to cycle in, and we’ll start seeing more women and more children from a whole host of diverse backgrounds riding. We’ll buck the trend which currently sees three out of the four cycling trips made by men, and in doing so we will have far more people cycling than the current paltry level of two percent of all journeys.

More people cycling and walking those shorter journeys means our communities will transform into places, where people can easily pop to the shops, meet with a friend in a cafe or just enjoy the freedom that comes without having to choose driving all the time.

All the supporters for our campaign have helped to bring this message to Westminster.

Cross-party support for cycling 

Prior to the summer recess, during a lively Westminster Hall debate there was clear broad cross-party support from rural and urban constituencies for increasing funding for cycling and walking. Ex-Transport Minister, Jesse Norman MP, had cycling and walking put firmly on his agenda, with more than 200 English MPs writing to him on funding – that’s just under 40 percent of English MPs.

The pressure and message seemed to have worked as Norman went on the record to say the level of investment needs to “potentially double or more” to achieve the Government’s own targets of doubling cycle use by 2025.

The funding baton has clearly been taken up by his successor, Chris Heaton-Harris, the current Transport Minister responsible for cycling and walking. He told MPs who had written to him calling for more funding, that he would make: “Strong representations in the forthcoming Spending Review.”

Unfortunately, as we saw on Wednesday 4 September during the Government’s Spending Round there’s no money for active travel for the year ahead. Instead, Heaton-Harris in response to a Parliamentary Question from the Labour MP for Tooting, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan explained we’ll have to wait, saying: “Decisions on future funding for cycling and walking will be made as part of the multi-year Spending Review, now planned for 2020.”

Putting it bluntly, it’s a disgrace that the question marks over future funding for cycling and walking must wait a further year.

Caroline Grogan, Cycling UK Campaigns Officer 

So what’s to be done? 

We’re in an extraordinary political climate where key issues of the day like the climate emergency that Parliament declared in May 2019 are such a low priority. Putting it bluntly, it’s a disgrace that the question marks over future funding for cycling and walking must wait a further year.

The Government is leaving itself little time to achieve its own modest targets of doubling cycling in England over the next five years – targets which it acknowledged in November 2018 it would not achieve.

At the Cycle County Active County conference in Chelmsford, Labour MP Lilian Greenwood and Chair of the Transport Select Committee, talked about how important it is for us to maintain the pressure on the Government.

Even though the Chancellor didn’t announce increased funding for cycling and walking, Lilian Greenwood sees the ongoing debate ahead of the fuller spending review as an opportunity to highlight the urgent need to address issues such as health, the environment and the benefits for the local economy that cycling can bring.

Under pressure 

There’s a strong chance that the country will be heading to the polls with a snap election in the near future.

If that’s the case Cycling UK will be looking to identify Parliament’s future supporters of cycling and walking amongst the candidates. With a multi-year spending review due next year, it’s important to marshal supportive MPs as we apply more pressure on our Government to ensure there’s adequate funding for cycling and walking.

Cycling UK’s supporters have done fantastic work in convincing the Department for Transport that funding for cycling and walking matters. They get it – our next targets if we’re to get meaningful shift in how Government treats cycling has to be the other departments: health, environment and ultimately the Treasury.

Together, we’ve shown that cycling can address the health, environmental and congestion crises that are happening now.

Our collective voice can and must only get louder.