Cycling UK has accused the Government of ‘hiding evidence from Parliament’ by suppressing a report showing current levels of investment for cycling and walking fall ‘far short’ of what is needed to get England moving again.
The charity has called for the publication of the report which it believes will show, that without a significant increase in funding, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “plan for unleashing our nation of cyclists” is ‘doomed to fail’.
Giving evidence at the House of Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry “Reforming public transport after the pandemic”, Cycling UK’s policy director Roger Geffen said: “The Government has sat on research over the last 14 months, and our understanding is that it shows £2 billion is only about a quarter to a third of what is needed to meet the Government’s own targets to double cycling and increase walking by 2025.
“It’s really important the Government is clear about what it’s targets are and that it publishes the research which shows whether the funding is adequate to hit their targets and then act on the findings of the [suppressed] research as it sets its budgets for cycling and walking in the Spending Review.”
The Department for Transport’s first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, launched in 2017, laid out the Government’s aims to double the number of cycling trips and to increase walking by 2025. Currently, cycling makes up just 2% of all trips in England. Last May, the Government allocated £2 billion for cycling and walking to meet these aims over the following five years in its vision document, Gear Change, launched by Johnson.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said to the Transport Committee in February 2021 that £2 billion was ‘enough’ to meet the Government’s targets. Geffen disagreed with this assessment. He claimed the unpublished report, commissioned by the DfT and kept from Parliament, will show the Government knew £2 billion was only a ‘fraction’ of what is needed to meet their aims.
Pointing out the benefits of more people cycling, Geffen said the Government should publish the report and follow its recommendations with a view to increase funding levels for cycling and walking to between £6 and £8 billion over the next four years.
“It is very disappointing that spending next year will be actually less on cycling and walking as things stand than what it was last year,” said Geffen. “We’re going in the wrong direction rather than boosting local authorities’ capacity to scale up their abilities to spend at the levels we need to be spending if we’re going to meet the Government’s targets.”
To assist local authorities and increase their capacity to spend this funding effectively, Geffen also encouraged the Government to launch Active Travel England, outlined in Gear Change.
In the Chancellor’s Budget published last week, there was no further funding for cycling and walking in England. In Wales, the Welsh Government’s budget published last week allocated a further £50 million to active travel measures, while in Scotland a further £15 million for cycling and walking has been announced.
Speaking after his appearance in front of the Transport Committee, Geffen said: “The Government has deliberately hidden evidence from Parliament by claiming that £2 billion would allow them to ‘make strong progress’ against their targets to encourage more cycling and walking. They need to publish the suppressed report and act on its findings as a matter of urgency.”
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