A joint press release from Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and the Department for Transport lists how eight cities will divide £114m between them but the most significant news is in the "notes to editors" section. At the base of the release the Government cites research from Dr Rachel Aldred, and commissioned by British Cycling, which states that if the UK became a cycling nation like the Netherlands or Denmark it could "save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years … reduce road deaths by 30% … increase mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25% and increase retail sales by a quarter."
If such a statement becomes a boilerplate on Government press releases about cycling – and "notes to editors" very often stay the same from press release to press release – it may mean the Government has finally bought in to the economic and health benefits of getting more people on bicycles.
However, as Sustrans’ director of policy Jason Torrance points out, the Government is still not committed to spending enough. He said today’s cash announcement "will be welcomed by people in the cities concerned but it needs to be followed up with committed funding and action to allow all areas to extend travel choice, help ease congestion and improve our health and our environment."
He added: “Only longer term, dedicated funding of at least £10 per head can transform the UK into a cycling and walking nation.”
In today’s announcement Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will each get £22 million from the the Government’s Cycling Cities Ambition Fund. Bristol gets £19 million. Cycling cities Cambridge and Oxford get £6m and £3.3m respectively, with Newcastle getting £10.6m and Norwich to benefit from £8.4m.
The cities submitted their bids for the funding at a cycling summit in Bristol in November last year, a summit attended by Nick Clegg. In today’s press release he said: "We are in the midst of a cycling revolution in the UK but we need to make sure we’re in the right gear to see it through. That’s why I’m so pleased to announce this investment for these major cities to make it easier for people to get around on two wheels. This money can help Britain become a cycling nation to rival the likes of Denmark and the Netherlands."
Referring to British Cycling’s document, he added: "Research shows us that boosting cycling could save billions of pounds otherwise spent on the NHS, reduce pollution and congestion, and create a happier and safer population."
Robert Goodwill, inister for roads, road safety and cycling, said: "Cycling is great for your health and good for the environment, and this government is doing all it can to help more people get out on their bikes. We have doubled the amount of money available for cycling and taken steps to make sure that future governments plan properly for cycling." Government buys into the benefits of bicycling