This week saw the Treasury commit to spending £28billion on building new roads, cut plans for an Office of Active Travel, fail to mention cycling within its Comprehensive Spending Review and fail to mention any renewal for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
This recipe designed to kickstart Britain’s economic recovery has understandably caused some alarm for the world of cycling.
As the CTC noted, Lib Dem colleague Danny Alexander MP (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) outlined spending for motorways, trunk roads and the HS2 rail network for the years 2015-2021, adding that local transport spending would drop from around 23 per cent of the Department’s capital budget to 15 per cent.
Prior to the spending announcement, CTC had joined a coalition of environmental groups calling on the Chancellor to focus on repairing and renewing existing roads, arguing that this would have greater economic and job-creation benefits than building new ones. Motoring, freight and civil engineering organisations were also emphasising the importance of road maintenance.
CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen said: “Over the past 18 months we have seen tremendous support for the cause of cycling, which makes this non-response from the Treasury all the more alarming. Many councils are raring to transform their roads and communities into places where people of all ages can feel cycle safely and confidently for day-to-day journeys, yet they lack the resources to do this. It really is urgent now that the Prime Minister answers calls for action to Get Britain Cycling.”
The CTC added that the large road schemes in the pipeline could sever cycle routes: "Several current Highways Agency projects are set to undermine cycle links, including a National Cycle Network route where it crosses the M3 near Winchester, another near Sandbach (on the M6) and a third on the A453 near Nottingham. CTC believes that cycle-friendly design principles have to be fully incorporated into all transport projects."
Sustrans policy director Jason Torrance commented: “Investment in infrastructure is key to stimulating the UK’s economy, but the government is mistaken if it thinks large scale investment in new roads is anything but a drain on the taxpayer.
“Investing in infrastructure that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport and takes the two-thirds of journeys under five miles off our roads would transform local economies and increase people’s travel choices.
“By providing people with healthy and affordable transport options the government would dramatically ease congestion, improve our health and save the economy billions."
Sustrans’ Policy Director, Jason Torrance added: “It is a welcome relief to see the government wisely investing in improvements to our existing road network, as urged for by Sustrans and others, making travel safer and more efficient for all road users.
“But the decision to fund more new roads is misguided and wasteful and will only encourage people to drive more, increasing the burden that congestion and pollution are placing on the economy.
“Investing in providing everyone with more choice about how they travel would make the UK healthier and more prosperous.”