There are huge transport and health benefits that encouraging cycling and walking would tap into. They are good for public health and reducing congestion and the Government needs to back them to capitalise upon these benefits. Cycling and walking need to be consistently promoted across the country. Indeed, in my previous role as Shadow Minister for Public Health, I joined Walk for Health on a walk tour, which you can read about here.
Here, in Liverpool, the Labour council has developed an ambitious cycling strategy that can be read here.
I have been disappointed by the Government’s record on cycling over the past five years. For example, the Government scrapped Cycling England with its long-term £60 million annual budget and last year it was reported that half of all local councils have had to cut spending on walking and cycling since 2010. Because of savage cuts to their grants from the government.
In the recent Spending Review the Government made cuts to the Department for Transport’s operating budget of 37 per cent. Following substantial pressure from Living Streets, Sustrans and others the Local Sustainable Transport Fund survived the cuts, however dedicated cycling funding has been cut by over 50 per cent.
It’s incredibly disappointing that it is now apparent that the Government does not have a plan to meet its aim to increase spending on cycling to £10 per person each year.
I am also concerned by the figures highlighted by Living Streets which show an increase in the proportion of primary school aged children being driven to school at the expense of walking. The opposition front bench previously pressured the Government to amend the Infrastructure Bill to commit Ministers to producing a long-term funding plan for walking and cycling, but following their failure to address the issue in the Spending Review, this commitment is now in doubt.
I am disappointed by the Government’s slow progress on the long awaited Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. I will continue to holding the Government to their promise to produce a meaningful strategy that sets out clear, long term funding – as well as pressing the case for restoring national safety targets.