The government has published its long-awaited and much-delayed plan to increase cycling and walking. The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is said to be a £1.2 billion long-term plan to "make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys."
The plan is said to target funding at "innovative ways to encourage people onto a bike or to use their own two feet for shorter journeys."
The government says it wants to double cycling usage, and reduce cycling injuries. As is always the case, much of the money promised in this announcement is made up of previously announced funding packages. It is also spread over five years – it is not a £1.2bn one-year plan (and even that would be relatively unambitious).
£50 million will be provided for Bikeability cycle training for a further 1.3 million children. £101 million will be allocated to improve cycling infrastructure in towns and cities. £85 million will be spent on making improvements to 200 sections of roads for cyclists. There will be £80 million for safety and awareness training for cyclists, extra secure cycle storage, bike repair, maintenance courses and road safety measures
Councils will be provided with £389.5 million to invest in walking and cycling schemes. And there will be £476.4 million from local growth funding to support walking and cycling. Along with the overall CWIS plan, local authorities have been provided with technical guidance for Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. Pointedly, the Department for Transport wrote that this "guidance has been written on the basis that little strategic planning has been carried out locally to develop cycling and walking networks."
In addition, the government said it is investing an extra £5 million on improving cycle facilities at railway stations, £1 million on Living Streets' outreach programmes to encourage children to walk to school, and £1 million on Cycling UK´s Big Bike Revival scheme which provides free bike maintenance and cycling classes
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
"We are making cycling and walking more accessible to everyone because of the substantial health and environmental benefits - it will also be a boost for businesses because a fitter and healthier workforce is more productive.
"We have already tripled spending on cycling since 2010 and we are now publishing a long-term investment plan because we are absolutely committed to increasing levels of cycling and walking."
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:
"As the days are becoming longer and warmer we want to encourage people to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys - improving people´s health, reducing travel costs, cutting congestion and cleaning up the environment in the process.
"Today we have set out our long-term approach to encourage more people to cycle or walk and overcome the barriers which stop them from doing so."
Former MP Julian Huppert (and who is seeking re-election as the MP for Cambridge) was responsible for getting the then government to make a guaranteed committment to launch CWIS. He told BikeBiz:
"I haven't had a chance to read [CWIS] in full, but it doesn't go as far as we called for in the Get Britain Cycling report - a huge shame."
Cycling organisations have welcomed today's announcement (albeit through gritted teeth).
Sustrans CEO Xavier Brice said:
"The first ever Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is a significant step forward by the government. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates that investment in cycling and walking has many health, social and economic benefits, and must be prioritised. The challenge now is to deliver the change needed locally and nationally."
CEO of Cycling UK Paul Tuohy said:
"Cycling is a fantastic transport choice, helping you to stay active and healthy as part of your daily routine, and saving you money on travel costs."
Cycling UK's policy director Roger Geffen added:
"Cycling UK has spent years campaigning for a strong and well-funded Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, so we’re pleased to see it finally published two years after it was initially announced.
“Now the hard work begins. With national as well as local elections now looming, Cycling UK will be doing all we can to build the cross-party support needed to strengthen this investment strategy over time, while supporting councils in making best use of the resources available, as they start bringing this vision to life.”
In a blog posting, Geffen also explained why cycling organisations have welcomed CWIS even though it's nowhere near as ambitious as many cycle advocates have been pushing for.
"This is the first time the government has made any kind of multi-year commitment to invest in cycling and walking," pointed out Geffen.
"Cycling UK and our allies – Sustrans, British Cycling, Living Streets and others – worked really hard for the legal commitment that secured this. It is a really important step forward."
He also praised the cycling officials at the DfT:
"I know how much hard work has gone into this from the small team working on cycling and walking at the Department for Transport, particularly the mad rush to get it out before the election. I’ve little doubt that, in private, they too would love to have secured more funding. Had it been deferred till after 8 June, we might then have ended up waiting for several months for a new team of ministers to be persuaded (or not!) of the case for investing in cycling. So I really want to offer the officials my heartfelt thanks for what they have achieved."
Geffen highlights that the government's vision is a positive one, calling it "fantastic stuff". He adds: "Yet this vision could so easily have ended up being diluted or lost, if the CWIS announcement had been delayed beyond the election."