Government to invest £214m in cycling

Spending roundly welcomed but 'we need more', say campaigners

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has today promised £214 million – the biggest single investment ever, says the government – for cycling in the UK.

The majority of this will go to the eight cities that received Cycle City Ambition Grant funding: Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol. However, every cyclist should benefit from improved cycleways and planned infrastructure improvements.

The investment is part of the government's plans to double the number of those cycling by 2025, and the breakdown of the spending will be like this:

  • £114m will go to the eight cities that received the Cycle City Ambition Grant funding for the period 2015-2018
  • £100m of funding will go to the Highways Agency to improve cycling conditions along and across the network of motorways and trunk roads

Deputy Prime Minister Clegg explained, at a cycling summit in Bristol today: "I want to bring cycling down from the Alps and onto British streets. The inspiration and legacy of the 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire this year has started a revolution in cycling for everyone, not just in velodromes, not necessarily in Lycra, but for going to school or to work or to the shops.

"I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality. The rewards could be massive. Billions of pounds in savings for the NHS, less pollution and congestion, and a happier and safer population. In government, we’re putting the money down: now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line."

The spending has been welcomed by key cycling campaigners such as charities the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) and Sustrans, with recent figures showing that cycling delivers over £5 of health and other benefits for every £1 spent on it and with record numbers of people cycling.

CTC chief executive Paul Tuohy said: “This new funding certainly moves the Prime Minister’s ‘cycling revolution’ up a gear, and the three years of committed funding will be very much welcomed in the eight cities due to receive it.

“This has been a hard fought interim victory, not just for the cycling campaign community but also for the Department of Transport staff and MPs who’ve worked hard with us to Get Britain Cycling.

“We now need to keep pushing leading politicians in all parties to raise the annual funding for cycling up to the level of at least £10 per person, increasing progressively to £20 as cycle use rises – not just for eight cities but for the whole of Britain.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has also welcomed the developments. Chief executive Malcolm Shepherd said: “This is an invaluable commitment from government to cycling at a time of local spending cuts that spans this and the next Parliament. This must be a call to action for local decision makers at a time when the government is committed to spending £24 billion on roads and wider investment priorities are being set.

“Longer term, dedicated funding of at least £10 per head is the key to transforming Britain into a cycling and walking nation and we look forward to working with government to secure this.”

Meanwhile, British Cycling's policy advisor Chris Boardman has implored the government to make the most of the current climate regarding getting the nation moving.

“Obesity is not only killing 37,000 people in the UK every year, when all the effects are factored in, it’s costing us almost one billion pounds every week. A large part of the solution to this problem – not to mention pollution, congestion and social issues – is glaringly, frighteningly simple.

"For these problems to be solved, the solution needs to be invisible, built into our everyday lives, unnoticed. The solution is in how we move. British Cycling’s member survey highlights that, in this present moment, even regular cyclists are concerned for their safety on our roads. We have a long way to go."

“Last week the government’s own studies confirmed that investing in cycling gives a 5:1 return. I’m not exaggerating when I say that now is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change this country for the better for us and our children.”

Commenting specifically on the new funding, the 1992 gold-medal winning cyclist said: "The new funds are fantastic for the eight cycling cities – giving them more security to plan for the next three years – and I thoroughly welcome the announcement. The benefits of cycling show how investing in cycling will pay dividends. If we want to a cycling revolution, something I truly believe we can achieve, we have to invest in it, commit to it long term.

"To that end, the next step, building on today’s announcement, is to make investment like this one a permanent, embedded and an ongoing part of our transport strategy. If we do, then the benefits for our nation’s health, wealth and environment will be monumental."

Recently it was revealed that around two percent of all journeys are made by bike in the UK, while the Department of Transport allocates just 0.7 percent of its budget towards cycling.

Further research from British Cycling has also revealed that if the UK could become a cycling nation like Denmark or the Netherlands then it would:

  • Save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years
  • Reduce road deaths by 30%
  • Increase mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25 percent
  • Increase retail sales by a quarter

Despite all of this, car use is set to increase over the next 25 years, although recent official figures did not take into account the government's plans to increase the number of people cycling.

Gregor is BikeRadar's Beginners and Family section editor after leading a cycling heavy youth and regularly clocking up more than 34 miles on the ride to work each day. He's interested in the lighter side of cycling, such as commuting, children's bikes and the occasional short sportive. He also helps to keep BikeRadar's forum in check, and can often be found joining in conversation threads on how to step chafing and the like.

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