No sooner had we waved farewell to Cycling England and a pot of cash dedicated to bicycling than the Government had a post-budget ‘look what we’ve found down the back of the sofa’ moment and put together £836,000 for cycling.
That’s no mean sum, and something that cycle advocates – and indeed the trade – can’t fail to welcome. Better that than nothing, eh?
Even more welcome is the news that the £836k is in addition to the £560 million for the Local Sustainable Travel Fund – which is not earmarked for cycling alone, of course.
Instead, the new cash promised by MP Norman Baker is going to be dedicated to the cycle towns projects. You know, the ones that Cycling England pioneered.
Blackpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Colchester, Darlington, Derby, Exeter, Leighton Linslade, South Glos, Southend, Shrewsbury, Woking and York have all been listed as capable of offering value for money in the aim of getting more people cycling safely.
Baker said: “All the recommended projects fit well with the strategic objectives of the towns concerned and will increase the effectiveness of their existing programmes in generating additional cyclists.”
The cash will also go to three train operating companies: Merseytrail, South West Trains and Northern Rail in order to provide improved integration of bike and rail journeys.
Following a budget that was branded ‘Ford Focus’-centric, pandering to the car driver as has oft been the tradition (the budget was delivered during Climate Week, irony fans) the announcement of the funding is a reasurrance that cycling is still on the agenda, or at least that the Government is willing to throw a bone to keep cyclists mollified. Either way, it’s good news. Quite where the £836,000 has popped up from is another matter, but let’s not ask awkward questions at a time like this, eh?
So let’s party like it’s 2005 all over again. Well, maybe not just yet. The plot is already thickening on the cash for cycling – Baker’s department has apparently said that the statement contained various mistakes, at least about the funding for Exeter following an enquiry from local paper Express and Echo. So, as with most positive news on cycling, maybe it’s best to hold onto the party poppers for now. Especially if you are an independent bike dealer or cycle campaigner in Exeter.