Billions Required to Deliver Cycling Masterplan in England

By Laura Laker, Cycling Industry News

Chris Boardman says England would need up to £18bn ($20.7bn USD) to grow cycling equitably between rural and urban areas, against a current pot of up to £3.8bn ($4.3bn USD).

Active Travel England (ATE), of which Boardman is head, is tasked with meeting the target that half of all journeys in towns and cities are made by cycling and walking by 2030, and Boardman acknowledges to meet that target with the current budget they need to focus on high-yield urban routes.

While Boardman stresses his role is not as an advocate, he told a Transport Committee this morning while ATE will deliver some rural routes, he’d love to see a “more equitable approach”.

He said targeted increases in active travel to meet the 50% target would cost £9bn ($10.3bn USD), while doing so equally across rural and urban areas would cost double that, adding “this is what it takes to deliver the product. And then it’s a political decision of how important you think it is”.

Boardman expressed hopes about the incumbent Prime Minister, Liz Truss, saying “continuity is the main thing that I would be looking for” from her, “and I’m very hopeful that will be the case”.

On delivering routes across England Boardman said: “If we focus on areas of high population density, we focus on [authorities] who have the capability now to meet the targets by 2030, we can do that. If we want to spread it more equitably across the country, go to rural areas, then that will move towards the £18 billion, and that’s a governmental choice.”

Danny Williams, ATE’s CEO also revealed internal targets to build 3,000 miles of new cycle route by 2025, while engaging with 3,000 developments, including new housing estates of more than 150 units.

Williams said a legacy of stop-start funding has created “pockets of excellence” around the country, and long-term funding now available will allow ATE to be “a centre of excellence and start to do things properly, with a long-term plan and a robust commitment to making that happen,” as well as bringing more authorities up to scratch.

He said: “We set ourselves by 2025 to be funding 3,000 miles of active travel routes. That’s one of the metrics. We want to interact with 2,000 projects we want to be involved with at least 1,000 new housing developments, helping make those all work better.”

Boardman described Williams as “steely but all about helping” and the pair agreed a focus on safe routes to schools would be positive for children in rural and urban areas.

On that note, this week Bikeability CEO Emily Cherry has likewise described a funding shortfall being a barrier to achieving goals.

Boardman cited sustained investment in active travel in London as generating 25% growth in cycling, while adding in Greater Manchester cycling is up 40% on 2015 levels.

He also flagged the need for contextual release of transport data after recent Household Travel Survey data showed a drop of 7% in cycling, without other transport modes for comparison. “The unfortunate part of it was released on its own because driving dropped 23% and train travel dropped 47% So releasing that figure on its own, gave 180 degrees the wrong impression. In fact, active travel, cycling in particular, was the most robust in that period of all modes”

He adds: “The Gear Change strategy is the biggest single health intervention this government is making. This is built into everybody’s everyday life, so the benefits, although we’re here to talk about transport, are much, much wider.”

He also says it aligns with current societal changes. “We know that 31% fewer young people are now owning cars. That’s not how they want to spend their available disposable income, and they’re looking for alternatives.

“I think right now we also have a duty to ensure that people have access to cheap transport.”

“Active travel provides all of that for the local journeys, the vast majority of which are less than five miles, and a huge, around about a third, are less than a mile. So it is a part of our future as part of an integrated transport system.”

ATE is also putting together guidance videos to help local authorities understand, from those who have been there before, the challenges and benefits of committing to active travel investment, and reallocating road space. Williams said they will “find ways to match funding with both local leadership and support and also local capability to deliver”, and bring up capacity in councils that want to improve active travel.

Article courtesy of Cycling Industry News –