The funding breakdown for the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has been delayed until "early 2016", says a statement from the Department for Transport. The funding settlement was supposed to be out by the end of 2015. Instead, there will be a ministerial statement about the delay read out at the end of today’s business in parliament.
The ministerial statement will, instead, highlight a positive-on-the-surface document issued today by the Department for Transport which is good on joined-up-government but which has been "sat on" by the Treasury for some weeks.
This document – “Setting the First Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Getting Britain Moving” – contains many warm words about walking and cycling but campaigners are not confident any of the warm words will result much action on the ground because the Treasury won’t release national funds for the Cycling and Walking Strategy even though it is required to do so by statute.
CTC policy director Roger Geffen said:
“There is a yawning chasm between DfT’s admirable aims and the funding available.
“The only way to resolve this conflict is for transport ministers to reallocate some of George Osborne’s massive £15bn road budget towards cycling."
Prior to the chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review last month the Department for Transport was one of the first to commit to deep spending cuts. Spending cuts for programmes other than providing infrastructure for motor vehicles, that is – the Government said it will spend £15.2bn on "nationally important" roads.
George Osborne’s Autumn Statement included just £300m for cycling and walking between now and 2021. This is a 58 percent cut compared with projected spending of £142m just for cycling in 2015/16 alone. (The DfT will continue to fund Bikeability through to 2016, providing £50m.)
In today’s statement from the DfT, cycling and walking are deemed to be only "locally important" so most of the provision for cyclists and pedestrians will have to be delivered by already cash-strapped local authorities.
"This Conservative Government wants to create an environment which encourages walking and cycling, where cycling and walking is the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey," says the DfT statement.
The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy – or CWIS, and incorrectly listed as the Walking and Cycling Investment Strategy on today’s order of parliamentary business by the Government is called a "historic innovation which can help us achieve the Prime Minister’s ambition of a ‘cycling revolution’ and tackle the long term decline in walking."
The DfT statement goes on to recognise the many health, social, anti-congestion and well-being benefits of active travel but, of course, without providing adequate funds such positivity won’t achieve a great deal.
Stressing localism, the DfT said: "We are at the start of a journey to deliver the first CWIS. As a Government we believe the only way this is possible is by working in partnership with local government, third sector organisations, Local Economic Partnerships, individuals and the wider public and private sector."
As well as making a spelling mistake on the order of parliamentary business the DfT also has trouble stringing sentences together. The DfT statement said: "Whilst national Government can deliver a supportive policy and funding environment to deliver change. Implementation of the CWIS must be delivered at the local level."
The DfT said it has a "desire" for walking and cycling to "become the norm for short journeys" but won’t commit to spending national cash on such a desire. "Places," adds the Department that’s spending £15.2bn on infrastructure for motorists and next to nothing on active travel, "ought to be "designed first and foremost for people on foot or bicycle."
Ralph Smyth, head of infrastructure and legal at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned:
“With ministers saying last week that the limited investment will need to be targeted – meaning rural areas could receive a tenth that cities get – we fear the ambition to make cycling and walking the norm may not reach the English countryside.
“As is rightly recognised, it is critical that the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is cross-departmental. Building in continental levels of cycling and walking into new housing is vital if we are to be fit for the future. Moves by the Department for Communities and Local Government to deliver more housing need to encourage builders to ‘cycle-proof’ new homes and communities. To ignore that would be a false economy.”
On a much more positive note, the DfT’s new document stresses that cycling and walking are not just modes of transport and therefore not just the remit of the Departent for Transport.
The DfT statement said: "Delivering the ambition and objectives of the CWIS is primarily within the remit of the Department for Transport. However the CWIS will be impacted by and will impact on a range of Cross-Government plans and strategies including the emerging Childhood Obesity Strategy in the Department of Health, Road Safety Plan within the Department for Transport, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s National Air Quality Plan, Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Sports Strategy; Department for Communities and Local Government’s neighbourhood planning agenda and the Cross-Government physical activity campaign – Moving More, Living More."
The first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be published in the summer of 2016.