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Anxiety over void left by Cycling England

Thursday 28th April 2011

Concerns have been raised that the abolition of Cycling England could undermine the potential multi-million pound benefits cycling offers to public bodies, according to the Guardian.

A new report has suggested that focusing on cycling interventions in city regions could generate more than £700m in savings over 10 years by reducing the burden on the health service and cutting congestion and carbon emissions.

The study, carried out by Sustrans for the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG), provides an evidence base showing changes in travel patterns resulting from an increase in cycling investment.

It cited findings from the DfT’s cycling demonstration towns programme, which highlighted how investment in both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ measures boosted levels of cycling. The project boosted cycling in some areas by 27% and was deemed a success by ministers and participating authorities.

But funding for Cycling England, the national body responsible for the programme, ended this year. Councils are now required to bid for cash to support cycling projects through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. However, critics have dubbed it a ‘small sticking plaster’ and point out that not all authorities will be successful and most will receive less than £5m.

According to the Guardian report, the DfT has been pressing local authority transport bodies, such as Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), to apply for cycling cash through the fund. Keith Whitmore, chair of TfGM, revealed the organisation was drafting a major bid following discussions with DfT officials.

He said: "It will be different to the cycling superhighways [in London] and will be more about cycling and then commuting by train. We are also seriously looking at cycle hire schemes – similar to the velo-bikes on the continent."

The Guardian reports that a number of unitary authorities, who support cycling towns, have also expressed an intention to go down this route, but questions remain over how isolated local cycling officers could be co-ordinated to drum up the support needed for such interventions.

Ministers have committed to boosting levels of cycling and say local authorities are working to realise this ambition. They believe charities, through the Active Travel Consortium, are key to championing cycling to public leaders.

But - according to the Guardian - it is feared the reliance on voluntary groups to plug the gap left by Cycling England is not a sustainable option.

Click here to read the full Guardian report.

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