Somerset Council praised for political support for cycling

Councillors supporting Space for Cycling by Highway Authority - 17 December
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Somerset Council praised for political support for cycling

Cycling organisations have congratulated Somerset County Council for their political commitment to cycling this week.

The local authority became the first shire county council with over 30% of councillors backing a national campaign for improved cycling conditions. 

The national Space for Cycling campaign is coordinated by CTC, funded by the Bicycle Association’s Bike Hub levy, and was originally an initiative of London Cycling Campaign. CTC together with Cycle Somerset calls on councillors to make cycling a safe, convenient and enjoyable option for day-to-day journeys for people all ages and abilities. This requires a combination of protected space on fast or busy main roads, low traffic volumes and speeds on local routes, and quality links through town centres.

Seventeen out of Somerset’s 55 county councils are publicly backing the campaign, including Cabinet member for Resources David Huxtable and Shadow Cabinet Members Hazel Prior-Sankey and Claire Gordon.

Cycle Somerset Campaign Officer Jonathan Sladden said:

“Forty percent of Somerset County Councillors have responded to a survey conducted by Cycle Somerset. The health benefits of cycling were recognised and most were keen to support initiatives which help people to cycle safely. There were, however, some concerns about constraints in relation to road layout and financing of initiatives. After carefully studying their replies Cycle Somerset have decided  to identify difficult junctions and hazardous roads in the towns of Somerset. This will enable local councils to spend their scarce resources in a more effective manner.

“In Somerset 30% of children say they would like to cycle to school but only one tenth of this number do so. If parents felt confident that their children could cycle safely to school just imagine the beneficial effect this would have on the rush hour traffic."

Cycle Somerset Campaign Officer Jonathan Sladden

Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said:

“As an authority we want to see more people cycling, it’s good for people’s health and means fewer cars on the road and less congestion. The work we’re doing with projects like The Bridgwater Way shows that this is an issue that we take very seriously. All local authority budgets are stretched and we have to make tough decisions about where money is spent. Improvements to cycling facilities will take their place among all the other priorities and pressures with which we are challenged.” 

The Deputy Prime Minister recently announced £100 million worth of funding for the Highways Agency - soon to be converted to a Government-owned company – to improve cycling conditions along and across the network of motorways and trunk roads.  At the same time, the Government is due to publish its Cycling Delivery Plan which is calling for ‘expressions of interest’ from local authorities with the potential for future funding partnerships.     CTC and local campaign groups argue that stronger evidence of local political support will translate into a greater likelihood of central funding. This funding can be invested into creating quality infrastructure which will benefit all road users, which is why councillors in rural and urban areas alike are encouraged to show their support for Space for Cycling.

Robbie Gillett, Space for Cycling campaign coordinator at CTC said:

“Space for Cycling is a real opportunity for councils to show their support for a healthy, environmentally sound and revenue generating mode of transport, namely cycling.  Support is needed from all quarters of local government in order to plan-ahead effectively.  We would encourage more Somerset councillors to back the call and for officers to identify areas for improvement in the near term.  However, we recognise that space for cycling cannot be achieved on promises and aspirations alone – and that national government will need to provide additional funding.  CTC is calling for an allocation from the national transport budget of at least £10 per head per year to be dedicated to cycling.

“Introducing cycling into your life can make a real difference. For instance the average parent could save on average £642 a year by taking their children to school by bike rather than car - that’s the equivalent of a year’s worth of school lunches and a new bike for Christmas!”

However, since passing the 30% mark, Somerset have been overtaken by Herefordshire County Council where 41% of councillors are backing the campaign.

Contact information 

CTC Press Office
Email: publicity@ctc.org.uk
Telephone: 0844-736-8453

Notes to editors 
  1. A map of all councillors supporting Space for Cycling and their comments can be seen here: http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaign/space-for-cycling/space-for-cycling-your-councillors-views 
  2. Sustrans estimated that parents who drive their children to school could save on average £642 a year, equivalent to £2bn a year across the UK : http://www.sustrans.org.uk/news/school-run-costs-parents-%C2%A32-billion Government figures calculate the average family spends £437 on school lunches per child per year: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/free-school-lunch-for-every-child-in-infant-school
  3. CTC, the UK’s largest cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.ctc.org.uk  
  4. The Space for Cycling campaign was originally created by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC). LCC's campaign in London was focussed on lobbying candidates in 2014’s London borough elections, and had 867 candidates signed up to ward-specific asks (47%). CTC took LCC’s London-born campaign nationwide, working together with the Cyclenation federation of local campaign groups, and backed with generous funding from the cycle industry's 'Bike Hub' levy, run by the Bicycle Association. So far, support for the national campaign has resulted in over 700 non-London councillors signing up to the Space for Cycling themes. The campaign incorporates six main themes which are explained here: www.ctc.org.uk/article/campaigns-guide/what-do-we-mean-space-for-cycling  
  5. Nick Clegg announced £214 million worth of funding on 27 November 2014.  £114 million of this has been allocated towards to eight English towns and cities.  The other £100 million will be allocated to the Highways Agency.  http://www.ctc.org.uk/press-release/2014-11-26/government%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccycling-revolution%E2%80%9D-moves-gear-now-need-accelerate-says-ctc
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