Leading voices in the world of Welsh cycling have recently been highlighting the fact that not a penny of the many millions of extra funding awarded by the government to Cycling England will come to Wales – despite Welsh taxpayers contributing their share to the handout.
Both BBC online and the Western Mail recently outlined the strength of feeling at both grassroots level, within the Welsh Assembly and at Sustrans Cymru.
Although Sustrans Cymru has schemes that were part of the successful £50 million Connect2 lottery bid, it does not share in the £140 million cash recently given to Cycling England that runs schemes such as Bikeability and Cycling Demonstration Towns. The Welsh Assembly could expect an £8 million share of the cash under normal funding rules, say proponents of the ‘more cycle cash for Wales’ camp but the English riposte is that cash comes in via other areas of funding.
Speaking to BikeRadar, Lee Waters, former ITN Wales chief political correspondent and now National Director of Sustrans Cymru, said he stood by his earlier comments that “this is an open and shut case. Cycling England is operating only in England, doing good work, but none of that funding is coming to Wales, for things the Assembly Government wants to do but can’t get funding for.”
But Welsh bike cavalry may be coming to the rescue in the form of a petition started by Waters to get the Welsh Assembly to put money aside for taking over financial responsibility for the National Cycle Network in Wales. This is no ordinary petition by cycle activists, as it’s signed by the heads of countless major employers throughout Wales who clearly think a well-funded cycle-network is a must, including BT, Royal Mail, Age Concern and the National Union of Teachers.
“As things stand there is no financial incentive for councils to build and maintain quality cycling, walking and wheelchair routes, no ready pot of money other than that coming from charities and grants,” said Waters. “If the petition succeeds the opposite will be the case and Wales will have a ready means of playing it’s part in reducing its carbon emissions.”
The BBC report highlighted cash shortage on one particular potential bike route that would overcome the severing of Monmouth from the River Wye area by the A40 trunk road. Local campaigner Anthea Dewhurst spoke of the huge potential of the currently disused railway viaduct, the Duke of Beaufort Iron Bridge, commenting “the barrier is money.”
As a cycle route the bridge would link several schools and beauty spots such as Symond’s Yat to Monmouth. Although the scheme has funding from Connect2 lottery award, this is only half the cash required and it’s still not certain where the other half is to come from.