At the cycling summit in Bristol, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced a £214 million investment in Britain’s cycling infrastructure. In July, the Deputy Prime Minister said he wanted to see the number of journeys made by bicycle more than doubled by 2020.
The investment includes £114 million to help secure funding to support the Cycling Ambition Cities Programme for the next 3 years in Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford. It aims to accelerate their development of local cycling networks, increase protection for cyclists at junctions and congestion hot spots and help prevent collusions. In addition, there would be a £100 million investment over the next few years into something called the Strategic Road Network. The SRN aims to improve the conditions for cyclists and the pedestrians travelling alongside them when crossing Britain’s most important and busiest roads.
The Deputy Prime Minister said at the summit: “I want to bring cycling from the Alps onto British streets. The inspiration and legacy of the 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France, starting in Yorkshire this year, has started a revolution in cycling for everyone and importantly for going to school, work or to the shops. I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality. The rewards might be massive. Billions of pounds might be saved for the NHS; there could be reduced pollution and congestion; and a happier and safer population. In government, we’re putting the money down; now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line.”
On top of this investment, The Deputy Prime Minister has also launched two new initiatives to support a new generation of cyclists. A new scheme from Halfords, which aims to recondition and donate bikes and helmets to primary school children in the areas of the eight current cycling cities. Furthermore, a new pilot scheme to enhance the Bikeability cycle training programme to provide extra training to schools and parents, each designed to address a specific challenge to cycling.
The Living Streets’ Chief Executive, Joe Irvin, commented: “It’s encouraging that the £100 million investment over six years announced for the Strategic Road Network is intended to improve conditions for people on foot, as well as for cyclists, and that the target is to get 55 percent of our primary school children walking to school. The Government’s support for the Active Travel Consortium demonstrates that central government is finally recognising that local authorities need support to invest in infrastructure to get more people walking and cycling. Walking is the cheapest and easiest way to be physically active and offers health benefits for people of all ages, as well as improving our environment and boosting local economies. We look forward to hearing more about walking cities from this Government in the near future.”
Living Streets is the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. They work and aim to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk. Living Streets runs successful projects to encourage people to walk such as WOW (Walk Once a Week), Walk to School and Walk to Work Week.
Edmund King, president of the AA, also said: “Twenty percent of AA members regularly cycle, however, more say they might if the cycling infrastructure was better. More cycling may also help to reduce congestion in these eight cycling ambition cities. Clearer cycling paths and safer junctions also benefit drivers, as well as cyclists. The AA has been leading a ‘Think Bikes’ campaign to make drivers more aware of the presence of cyclists and motorcycle riders. The steps announced may help to boost harmony on the roads.”
The summit follows recent research commissioned by British Cycling, which found that if the UK became a cycling nation, like the Netherlands or Denmark, it might save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years; increase the mobility of some of the nation’s families by 25 percent and increase retail sales by a quarter.
How might increasing active travel improve the British economy and the NHS?