Details have emerged of the new Local Sustainable Travel Fund, which will become the main source of government funding for cycling infrastructure in the UK following the axing of Cycling England.
It will amount to some £560 million over the next four years, although this will have to be shared with bus, pedestrian and road safety schemes.
Some of this money will go to projects that were formerly handled by Cycling England, which is being wound up in March following the coalition government’s ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’.
Bikeability training will be supported for the next four years, while Links to Schools, Bike Club and walking to school initiatives (£13m), as well as the Transport Direct cycle journey planner (£1m), will continue to be funded in 2011/12.
The bulk of the fund, however, is intended to be bid for by local authorities outside of London to “support packages of transport interventions that support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions as well as delivering cleaner environments and improved air quality, enhanced safety and reduced congestion”.
The flip side
While confirmation of continued funding – at least in the short term – for these cycling projects is good news, the long-term future of such schemes in the UK looks far from certain. When Norman Baker, parliamentary under-secretary for transport, announced the demise of Cycling England in October, he warned there would no longer be “a dedicated cycling pot of money”.
However, some members of the coalition government have expressed support for cycling, including transport minister Theresa Villiers. In February 2009, before she came into office, she promised that one of the first actions of a Conservative government would be to order a review of guidance to get Department for Transport officials “thinking cyclist”.
When asked to comment on plans for railway station cycle hubs recently, she said the Government would be giving train operators longer franchises, enabling them to invest in the improvements passengers want, including better cycle facilities at stations.
Elsewhere, the future of British Waterways is a matter of considerable interest to many cyclists, due to its huge network of towpaths. The organisation is set to be abolished and become a charitable trust. Waterways minister Richard Benyon – who with his wife cycled 350 miles through northern France in support of Help for Heroes a few years ago – wrote this month that “the Government’s intention is to issue a full public consultation on the scope and model of the new waterways charity early in 2011”. The new body should be operating by April 2012.
The Inland Waterways Advisory Council – which advises the Government, navigation authorities and others – expressed little enthusiasm for British Waterways’ (BW) plans in their recent report on securing funding and dealing with cuts. Officials said: “The move of BW (into a different funding sector)… will not resolve many of the current funding problems of BW and will do little to address the inefficiencies and weaknesses in the structural arrangements of the inland waterways sector as a whole.” IWAC itself is a victim of the quango bonfire.
Another possible change which could affect cycling facilities is the expected forestry sell-off. We’ll bring you more details as they emerge.