Funding for Walking and Cycling
In 2017, the Government asked councils to produce plans to make more public spaces that are comfortable, safe and attractive to be in – however you choose to get around.
But they haven’t given councils funding to build the infrastructure that their plans identify – and as a result we worry that many streets and town centres won’t become the safer, cleaner and better places that they could be.
Cycling UK and Living Streets are keen to make a success of the Government's plans and, for that reason, are calling on the Government to give councils the funding they need.
In 2017, the Government published their first ever Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The strategy aims to double cycle use by 2025 and make cycling and walking the natural choice for short journeys or for parts of a longer journey.
At the heart of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy are Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, which all English councils outside London have been invited – but not required – to produce.
Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans map potential improvements to cycling and walking in a given area. The Government is giving 44 authorities, or groups of authorities, technical support to produce plans but all others are expected to do so of their own accord, using only their own resources.
Where is the funding?
Cycling UK, with our partners at Living Streets and Sustrans, worked closely with the Department for Transport (DfT) as the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy was developed. We are wholly supportive of the strategy’s overarching aims but are concerned that a lack of dedicated funding may scupper it.
Currently, despite asking councils to produce Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, there is no guarantee of funding to build any of the infrastructure identified in their plans. This means that, for authorities receiving technical support, their plans risk gathering dust. And, for the majority that are not receiving support, there is no incentive for a council to invest time and resources in producing an Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan.
To Cycling UK’s knowledge, there are only three authorities not included in the support package that are producing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan. These are East Riding, Brighton & Hove and Warwickshire.
Our campaign is not about kicking the authorities that are not producing one. It is unrealistic to expect cash-strapped local authorities to implement the Government’s ambitions without adequate support and a realistic possibility of funding. Instead, we are calling on the Government to establish dedicated funding for councils to use to build infrastructure identified in their plans.
The Government says there is £1.2bn available for local authorities to spend on cycling and walking. But the reality is that most of the money is either not exclusively for that purpose, is only available for specific local authorities, or is poorly spent. But crucially there is no pot of funding specifically for councils to implement their plan or begin constructing some priority schemes.
The largest pot of funding in the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, for example, is the Cycle City Ambition fund. It is worth £108 million but only available in eight cities. And the second largest lump sum is £85m, which has been given to Highways England, who only manage 2% of England’s roads, for road improvements whose main beneficiaries may not even be people cycling or walking.
The largest sums have been given to Local Enterprise Partnerships who can, in theory, allocate funding to cycling and walking but generally, in practice, do not prioritise such schemes. Spending on cycling and walking is likely to differ considerably between Local Enterprise Partnerships but a Cycling UK study, using generous criteria, found that the North East Local Enterprise Partnership allocate roughly £1.70-2 per head per year to cycling and walking.
What this campaign is calling for
We think the Government must do more. And as the Autumn Statement approaches, we hope that Ministers will recognise the opportunity they have to put meat on the bare bones of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. But we need your help.
We need as many MPs and council leaders as possible to ask the Government to make funding available for authorities to implement their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. Without funding, the Government’s warm words and ambitions will risk failure. So please, if you want more spaces that are safer, healthier, more prosperous and more accessible, ask your MP and council leader to contact the Government about this important issue.
It will take just two minutes of your time to take action - but could help transform where you live, shop, walk and work.