Budgetting the transport transition

Recent national calls for a dedicated and consistent cycling budget have been made by high-level organisations like the Transport Select Committee and British Cycling, making only the government itself fall short of accepting new economies. But with the forthcoming Growth and Infrastructure Act even the government could soon enshrine a dedicated cycle budget in law. Until then the government’s transport department, DfT, is drip-feeding and that could leave councils in the lurch. Newcycling explains what the call for a cycle budget means for Newcastle.

It is now near-universally accepted that a dedicated cycling budget is needed to build fit-for-purpose cycleways to fully open up the cycling possibility to people of all ages and abilities. A dedicated constant budget for building cycleways would unlock huge benefits, so much so a walking and cycling investment strategy clause has now been added to the government’s Growth and Infrastructure bill.

There is wide agreement that the budget has to be at least £10 per head per year. As a comparison, the Dutch spend about £25 pppa on cycleway construction. With Newcastle’s 300,000 residents £10 pppa translates into an annual £3 million that should be allocated to cycling infrastructure construction.

Incidentally £3m is the figure that current Newcastle cyclists save the city by their sheer virtue of cycling to work (we reported earlier) and is also the figure that DfT has provided to Newcastle for two years, with a likely three year extension (to 2018) – albeit with little continuity or certainty.

But despite all this, cycling infrastructure construction does not clearly appear in Newcastle council’s budget plans.

Trying to find out about the council’s current general transport budget has proved rather difficult as a recent Freedom of Information request to Newcastle City Council has shown with the council’s on-going 15/16 budget consultation giving little clue neither.

Newcycling’s chair, Katja Leyendecker, who gave oral evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 2013 on cycling safety, comments “We are quite worried about the state of the delivery of the Cycle City Ambition programme anyhow – on grounds of skill and will. But to find out that a council does not even know its own transport budget streams is something else. As a very minimum, given the national calls, they ought to ringfence a cycleway construction budget and set up a dedicated delivery team headed up by an urban transport expert – if anything, than for their self-stated Cycle City Ambition to stay on track. A clear budget allocation, means a clear programme and delivery.

“The benefits that the construction of high-quality cycleways, to physically delineate cycle space from fast heavy motor traffic, would bring to the city a whopping 1:5 return. A yield rate a traditional highway project can only dream of having. That is a reality that even the DfT accepts now.

“It’s good to see John Dobson Street plans shaping up – we will comment in detail later.”

References

Call for a cycling budget http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest-news/mps-call-for-10-head-cycling-budget-britain-130546
DfT cost benefit http://road.cc/content/news/134759-benefit-building-space-cycling-far-outweighs-cost-says-dft

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