Response to Newcastle budget 2015-16 consultation

To Newcastle City Council

In future, we would have liked to see the transport budget be presented in a much clearer way. The format and structure of the consultation is too complex and does not allow the reader to understand the full extent of resources and associated income, investment and/or cuts allocated to transport. In particular it should better articulate the rationale and economic case for investing in sustainable forms of travel, especially societal and financial gains made when enabling cycling through cycle infrastructure (capital investment). The budget should also clarify the revenue resources available to support the transition to a modern and equitable transport system.

In a recent letter to Nick Forbes, we provided more details on how to deliver this transition here.

The council budget document makes reference to “promoting invest-to-save opportunities via detailed assessment of business cases”. We advise that capital transport schemes should be systematically investigated to determine their value for money taking into account economic, environmental and social benefits (ref 1). Recognition should be made that cycling infrastructure, as outlined by the recent DfT study (ref 2) delivers high benefit-cost ratios. In particular public health benefits are significant (refs 3 and 4) and these need to be clearly spelled out in the council budget – stressing the impact on keeping our growing elderly population active (Dublin Charter), improving children’s wellbeing, and reducing obesity and inactivity.

Costs of Social Adult and Children’s care cause significant pressure on the council’s budget; and consideration should be made to invest in infrastructure which improve the wellbeing of our most vulnerable residents, as well as everyone else’s. Building cycling infrastructure is a preventative measure that delivers long-term gains and savings.

We’d like to comment on three specific proposals:

Parking services

Council document here

The City ought to have a Car Parking strategy outlining the council’s approach towards managing city space in a fair and sustainable way and enabling sustainable forms of travel. Please note that the way the consultation documents are presented does not allow us to fully understand the rationale for the specific proposals. By having a Car Parking strategy it would become easier for the council to justify changes and plan more adequately for the future. In relation to the urban core, such strategy could be based on a zoning approach with parking costs increasing towards the urban centre, as successfully implemented in other European cities (ref 5).

Highways – road and pavement maintenance

Council document here

We understand that the revenue budget requirement for Highways is forecast to increase in the future. Providing for motoring has many costs (refs 6 and 7), which are too often hidden (not monetised). We suggest that the council re-assesses its maintenance budget in light of their mandated transport transition (away from the private car), to make savings. We also ask the council to better align work streams such as maintenance programmes (re-surfacing and utility works) with capital schemes to avoid duplication and make savings.

We welcome road safety schemes to be integrated into a wider risk-based approach. We urge council to assess their way of road safety in light of cost/benefits. We suspect that road improvements for walking and cycling is the most cost effective way to improve road safety in a sustainable way.

Public Health

Council document here

The Public Health budget should address the NICE recommendation on physical activity and the environment (ref 8, recommendations 1, 2 and 3). To this extent it should contribute to the transport budget and its design and delivery of cycling infrastructure, rather than only supporting behavioural change programmes and park/leisure facilities.

In summary

We ask the council to take a more proactive look at ‘modal shift’ benefits and make a clear plan for a transport transition. For example shifting from car to cycle use will yield tremendous environmental and economic benefits – both to the individual and the society at large. It will also reduce road maintenance costs and requirements. We believe building cycle infrastructure (thereby removing the reason why the majority of people do not currently cycle) is an long-term ‘invest to save’ strategy, that has now become necessary and cannot be ignored any longer. This has not been given sufficient thought in the current council budget proposal, and we urge council to take a longer term view for the good of the city and its residents.

List of references

  1. Evaluating active transport benefits and costs, Victoria Transport Institute, June 2014 http://www.vtpi.org/nmt-tdm.pdf
  2. Value For money assessment for cycling grants, DfT, August 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/economic-case-for-the-cycle-ambition-grants
  3. The benefits of getting England cycling, Fiona Crawford and Robin Lovelace, Leeds University, January 2015,
  4. http://www.ctc.org.uk/sites/default/files/1501_fcrawford-rlovelace_economic-cycle-reformatted.pdf
  5. Benefits of investing in Cycling, Dr Rachel Aldred, commissioned by British Cycling, October 2014 http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/zuvvi/media/bc_files/campaigning/BENEFITS_OF_INVESTING_IN_CYCLING_DIGI_FINAL.pdf
  6. Europe’s Parking U-Turn: from accommodation to regulation, ITDP, 2011
  7. The war on motoring: myth or reality?, IPPR, August 2012
  8. Fairness in a car-dependent society, Sustainable Development Commission, February 2011
  9. Physical activity and the environment, NICE guidelines, 2008 (recommendations 1, 2 and 3), http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph8

References 5, 6, and 7 can be found under online reports on http://newcycling.org/technical-documents/