City centre cycling – let’s talk money

The Newcastle Cycling Campaign has analysed cycling expenditure figures that our council kindly provided to us on our request. We have shared the analysis with our council and invited their feedback but have not received any (yet).

Headline

Over the last five years an annual average of £0.3m has been expended (or shall we say invested) in cycling, allocated through the Local Transport Plan. To put that sum into context. A typical European annual investment in cycling would amount to £2.8m, based on a sustained annual investment of £10 per citizen.

The current investment for cycling in Newcastle is 11% of our European counterparts. And we typically don’t have the engineering wisdom and political guts to spend it effectively.

Summary of our analysis

The cycling spend averaged £300k pa with a maximum of £450k in 2006/07 and a minimum of £220k in 2007/08.

The five year spend of £1.5m roughly splits into locations of spend for city centre £280k, Coxlodge Waggonway £450k, Town Moor £400k, City Stadium £100, others including Minor Schemes £330k.

Our analysis of the figures shows that over a period of five years (2005-10) the city centre location has received 18% of the council’s spend for cycle improvements. Coxlodge Waggonway 30%, Town Moor 25%, City Stadium 7%, others including Minor Schemes 20%.

The analysis allows for an assumed half share of all Minor Cycling Schemes being spend in the city centre, which may well overestimate the actual spend on the city centre. (Sensitivity analysis: no share = city centre spend 13%, full share – city centre spend 23%)

Looking at specific years, 2007/08 and 2005/06 saw a good investment in the city centre, at about £100k in each of those years, hence accounting for nearly 40% of spend each year.

However, spending on the city centre location in the year 2006/07 was low at 2% (equating to £10k). 2006/07 was the year efforts appear to have been concentrated on Town Moor at £300k. The five-year spend on the Town Moor is £400k.

It should be noted that the data received from Newcastle City Council does not have sufficient detail that would allow us to comment on the type of spend / on what the money was spent exactly, for example: whether it was installing signs or cycle lanes that was carried out, capital or revenue spending.

Indeed we cannot comment on the value-for-money aspect (how worthwhile the investment was) or the quality of the installations.

Qualitative comment: looking forward

General comment
We believe that the 18% spend on the city centre has been low and future investment needs to concentrate on that location. The recent safe cycling in Newcastle petition has clearly demonstrated the need for strategic cycling network in the city centre.

2010/11 budget
Voices coming out of Newcastle City Council indicate that a good proportion of the 2010/11 budget (£200k of the £300k cycle budget – details of spend yet to be understood) will be spend on the city centre and we welcome that. Unfortunately these plans are now being drawn up in a haste as no existing plans were available. We are disappointed to learn that no previous plans existed and plans have to be drawn up from scratch.

Consultation
We have been invited to participate in a Task Group to discuss and comment on these city centre plans. We have provided our detailed comments to Newcastle City Council in writing and reiterated them verbally at the meeting. We have received a written reply: in summary the council’s plans are following the business-as-usual piecemeal approach and have failed to impress us.

Funding sources
We again urge Newcastle City Council to investigate other ways of funding, and ask the cycling officer to draw in funding from other sources, internal and external to the council, and report progress on this.

Future of cycling
We urge the council to draw up plans for future years such as a ‘five year investment plan’, taking full account of relevant policy and strategy such as 1PLAN (vision for the city centre), LTP2/3, health sector plans, cycling strategy, etc. These cycling plans can then be marked ‘on hold’ – ready for when monies become available. We believe these plans would not become obsolete quickly which would make this an extremely efficient and viable organised approach.