Cycling in the UK may be more popular than ever, but road design and infrastructure is widely seen to be lagging dangerously behind. That situation may be set to improve with government plans worth £100million to improve cycling conditions at a number of major motorway junction crossings and A-roads.
Highways England, the government-owned company that manages roads and transport routes across the country, has stated that the money will be used to "provide new cycling facilities which are safe, separate from traffic and can be used by cyclists of all abilities".
£100 million has been pledged to cover 200 projects, which are due to be completed over the course of the next five years up to 2021 as part of the government's road investment strategy. Forty of the projects have already been started and will be completed by spring 2016.
The investment is part of government aims to make cycling safer and reduce congestion, transport minister Andrew Jones said. "This important work is part of a transformational programme to make travelling by bike a more attractive option – great news for cyclists and motorists." he added.
Improvements will include new or updated signage, improved lighting and the creation of new cycle lanes in certain areas
This first phase will include improvements at nine motorway junctions, which will include creating or improving cycle lanes, and new lanes, crossings and signage on a number of major A-roads. These include:
- A12 at Lowestoft, Suffolk – to include work at 11 locations along a 2.5 mile stretch of the road, to provide a cycle route through the town
- A27 at Kingsham, Hampshire – a new footbridge will be installed
- A590 between Brettargh Holt Roundabout and Newby Bridge, Cumbria – new improved signage along a 12 mile stretch of road
- A5 at Bedfordshire – improvements to an existing cycle route
- A663 between M60 and A627(M) near Chadderton – new cycle lanes on a two-mile stretch of road that links with existing routes
- A12 between Witham and Marks Tey – route improvements
- A574 at Birchwood Way over M6 near Warrington – improvements to safety barriers and lighting
The East and North West of England are seeing the bulk of the work to begin with
“These improvements will make cycling easier around major A-roads and over motorway junctions across England. They will contribute towards a connected, comfortable, attractive and high-quality cycling network, suitable and safe for use by people of all ages and abilities," commented Richard Leonard, Highways England's cycling champion. “We want to provide safe, accessible and integrated cycling facilities that give people a genuine choice about whether to travel in their car to get on a bike instead."
While increased spending on cycling is undoubtedly welcome, the response from organisations such as the national cycling charity CTC has been cautiously optimistic.
“It’s great to hear Highways England has started work on improving and making cycling safer in 200 areas, as promised in its recently published cycling strategy. What matters most is what is delivered on the ground," said David Murray, CTC's head of campaigns and communications. "The UK has witnessed decades of failing to create safe and convenient cycling links along or across the existing trunk and motorway network, particularly at large junctions. The question is how quickly can this be reversed? The answer depends on the level of funding, and the design standards needed to ensure it is well spent."
in particular, the £10 million earmarked for the developments may sound like a lot, but it's dwarfed by the overall budget for road network improvements.
“An earlier draft of the new cycling design standards from Highways England was encouraging and CTC hopes will be published in the near future." Murray continued.
"If David Cameron’s much hyped ‘Cycling Revolution’ is to actually happen, given how little has so far been earmarked for cycle spending, Ministers must find funding for cycling. We want to see Government redeploy some of the £15 billion budget for strategic road network improvements and invest in cycling – a transport option that makes economic and environmental sense.”