In June’s Comprehensive Spending Review, walking and cycling got zero mentions (with no word on the proposed Office for Active Travel). In the Department for Transport’s follow-up document, walking and cycling at least get mentioned. The ‘Roads for the 21st Century’ plan was released today and contains ambitious and "fully-funded" plans to expand Britain’s road network.
Motorised road transport gets "£28 billion of investment, which includes a trebling of funding for motorways and major A-roads" and electric vehicle makers will get an additional £500m.
‘Roads for the 21st Century’ gets its history right – "In many cases busy roads follow routes that were set down long before the motor car had even been invented" – but the sections on walking and cycling show that this is far far from the promised "greenest Government ever."
The document says "cycling and walking are an important and growing part of our transport system", a grammatical conflation that seems to imply the two transport modes are deemed to be the same thing by the DfT.
"We want to ensure that changes to local roads take better account of the needs of cyclists, whether they are happening as part of major enhancements, bespoke schemes or general maintenance," states the document, offering no evidence or cash on how this will be accomplished.
Instead, the buck is passed to cash-strapped local authorities:
"The best roads for cycling are frequently those run by local authorities – either because they are the most direct, or because they have the most pleasant surroundings…We will continue to encourage highways engineers working for local authorities to think about the needs of cyclists in their designs for new schemes."
‘Encourage’ is very different to ‘fund’.
The DfT claims that the trunk road network takes traffic away from local authority roads (quite where it disappears to isn’t stated): "A well-functioning strategic road network helps keep long-distance traffic, including lorries, away from these roads and gives cyclists more space."
The document makes some positive noises, but doesn’t explain how the promises will see the light of day: "As we begin the new programme of investment, we need to take advantage of the opportunity it presents to make even greater provision for cycling as a form of transport."
There’s no new cash for such provision.
The safety of cyclists at junctions is mentioned but, again, there’s no concrete plan of action or cash mentioned: "We must start work to seek and correct historic problems, and retrofit the latest solutions and make sure that it is easy and safe for cyclists to use junctions."
Looking on the bright side, the document states: "This year the Highways Agency will be tackling 20 places, mainly around junctions, where access for cyclists can be improved. Further ahead, we will tackle more sites where there are safety issues."
‘Roads for the 21st Century’ claims "We will continue to help cyclists by investing in the road network," citing £107m of recent funding and the £600m Local Sustainable Transport Fund. This fund is being wound down and transferred into a new-build housing fund.
British Cycling’s Director of Legal and Policy Affairs, Martin Gibbs, welcomed the report: “We’re really pleased to see an acknowledgement from the government on the need to ensure that our roads are fit for cyclists.
"British Cycling has been banging the drum on the need for cycle-proofing and the redesign of dangerous junctions for months and it’s fantastic to see that these efforts – and the efforts of all of our members – have paid off.
"We will be following developments closely to ensure that this vision is turned into a reality as soon as possible for the near two million cyclists who use our roads every week.”