Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure backs down on cuts to cycling and walking school funding
- Concerted campaign by Cycling UK and Sustrans force Department for Infrastructure (DfI) drop proposed funding cuts to the Active School Travel programme
- Campaign supported by schools, parents and carers to challenge the DfI decision
- The DfI now pledges to retain sufficient funding to allow programme to continue for the 23/24 school year
Cycling UK has learned the Department for Infrastructure yesterday (3 July) has now backed down on proposals to cut funding which teaches the valuable life skill of cycling to school-age pupils in Northern Ireland.
Previous DfI proposals meant that when schools returned on 1 September the Sustrans-led Active School Travel programme, which helps pupils develop the skills to walk and cycle safely to school in 48% of schools, was going to be cut.
Following a public outcry led by Cycling UK and Sustrans, which was supported by 120 schools and hundreds of parents and carers, the department has now assured the two charities that sufficient funding to continue the programme will be available for the next school year.
Cycling UK and Sustrans highlighted to the department that cutting the programme would have had a detrimental impact on children across Northern Ireland, potentially locking in car dependency for another generation and making net-zero goals more difficult to achieve.
Andrew McClean, Cycling UK’s spokesperson in Northern Ireland commented:
“This is a victory for common sense and will benefit the future generations of Northern Ireland. Cycling UK applauds DfI for listening to parents, schools and individuals on the impact and importance of teaching cycling and walking to children across Northern Ireland.
“Civil servants are having to make difficult decisions in the face of budgets cuts and in the absence of a minister and an Assembly, but this reversal is the right decision for a greener and healthier Northern Ireland. Officials have recognised minor savings from cutting the Active School Travel programme is disproportional to the huge benefits it delivers in schools and local communities.
“Cycling UK hopes this is a sign of positive change within DfI, as Northern Ireland needs to see investment in active travel as a long-term saving. Every person we can support and encourage to drive less, and cycle – or walk – more instead will lead to better health, cleaner air, and more pleasant communities across Northern Ireland.”
Sustrans is now recruiting for the autumn term and encouraging interested schools to get in touch via email: schoolsNI@sustrans.org.uk
Notes to editors
- Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
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