Funding announced for £2bn of 'growth deals' ... and £15m for cycle rail
The £15m was announced in Sheffield the day before the Tour de France's start in Yorkshire, on Friday.
It is the first announcement of any substantial funding for cycling in almost a year.
However, it was overshadowed by £2bn in funding for 39 'local growth deals' across England, which will mainly fund new roads, junctions and business parks.
Very little of the 'local growth deal' cash will go to cycling or walking schemes.
Local Enterprise Partnerships were responsible for bidding for funding through a process which replaced the previous regional planning structure, which was dismantled by the coalition government. The current funding is out to 2016, with an additional £6bn of unallocated funding up for negotiation over the next 5 years thereafter.
Will cycling benefit?
From a skim read of the deals, it appears that, as was feared, only a tiny fraction of the funding will go towards schemes that directly benefit cycling.
Most of the schemes are 'big transport' schemes to open up new land for development under housing or business parks. Many are new link roads or new or enlarged junctions. It is crucial that in these cases the roads must be properly 'cycle proofed' to ensure that they do not provide a barrier to cycling, and instead ensure that cycling benefits from any changes to existing road layouts, or is incorporated fully into new infrastructure.
In general, the schemes to be funded will be highly unsustainable, in all likelihood inducing more car and motor traffic. In most cases the land to be developed are urban extensions on old industrial land. This is often distant from other services, but close to major roads, which means future residents or workers are much more likely to need to drive, and the distances may be too great for most people to access these locations by foot or by bike.
However, in some cases the schemes to be funded include packages of measures, such as routes to access stations, or collections of smaller transport projects. These include £50m for 'sustainable transport packages' in West Sussex as well as some rail and station improvements in Manchester and the West Midlands. Bodmin will become a 'Cycling Town' under the project, with £5.8m to spend, while there is another £6m to maintain the momentum of the Birmingham 'Cycle Revolution'.
The Department for Transport had tried to incentivise local authorities to adopt 'sustainable transport packages' with the offer of matched revenue funding, however, only around 5% of the total resources (£100m) in the deals appear to meet this criteria, a far lower figure than that which has gone to sustainable transport under the current funding round.
The cycle-rail funding - a crumb of comfort
Baroness Kramer, the rail minister, announced the £15m cycle-rail funding alongside Phillip Darnton, the chairman of the Cycle Rail Working Group, a cross-industry group that is tasked with spending the money.
She was there to launch the Sheffield cycle hub, a secure, covered, cycle storage area for 415 bikes with hire facilities, and one of several 'cycle hubs' created across the rail network in recent years.
We are transforming cycling facilities at stations up and down the country to make it easier to choose the bike for the journey to the station. That is why we are providing £15 million of new funding to help deliver this vision.
Cycle-rail has been a growing success story in recent years, with the numbers of rail passengers arriving by bike doubling over the last seven years, from around 50,000 trips per day to over 105,000 by 2013. More people cycling to stations benefits rail companies, who generate more traffic at a fraction of the cost of building more car parking.
£10-20 per head, per year
The government announcement suggests that "the funding... comes on top of the government’s existing £374 million in cycling." However, that funding - nearly all of which runs out in April 2015 - falls far short of the £10-20 per head, per year which the Get Britain Cycling report said was necessary to secure substantial increases in cycling of 10% of trips by 2025, up from the current 2% of trips.
While some additional funding for cycling is welcome - it's a very long way short of the long-term funding called for by MPs over a year ago. If the government wants to get Britain cycling, it's going to need more than cycle-rail cash and the scraps from the Local Growth Fund.
It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming Cycling Delivery Plan - announced in August last year - will set out how this challenging funding can be secured. The strides made on cycle rail are themselves testament to the need for long-term, sustained funding for cycling projects. While £15m for cycle-rail is welcome, to change the tens of thousands of miles of the road network that are unfit for cycling will require a far greater scale of investment.
The scraps from the Local Growth Fund, plus the titbits on offer through other sources, hardly match the sustained, long term funding that saw other countries, like the Netherlands, transform their urban environments into a cycling paradise.