Long-awaited change is finally afoot (or on wheels) for walking and cycling in the UK, with the government announcing a huge £23M boost to funding. The Department for Transport’s generous pledge has lofty ambitions, with aims to get more children walking to school, boost health, reduce carbon emissions and improve road safety.
Cycling Minister Jesse Norman says, “Cycling and walking are a key part of our plans to make transport cleaner, greener and more productive. This funding will help ensure that everyone can enjoy wonderful routes which connect communities across the UK, and benefit from the huge health and environmental benefits of cycling.”
Our National Cycle Network will get a huge overhaul
The 16,575 sprawling miles, both on and off road, that comprise the UK’s National Cycle Network will be treated to a long-overdue upgrade. The new and improved network will be safe, accessible and traffic-free – an appealing thought compared to your commute via car, delayed trains thanks to recent rail woes, or feeling like sardines on a London tube.
With an estimated 630 early deaths avoided in 2017 alone due to the use of the cycling network, its importance cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, from murmurings in recent press, it sounds like the announcement hasn’t come a moment too soon, with mounting tension around cycling dominating headlines.
Guardian journalist Andrew Gilligan recently lamented London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s lack of action regarding overhauling the capital’s cycling infrastructure, as he had promised.
“There isn’t room for two bikes to pass safely. The cracked, bumpy tarmac hasn’t been touched in years. The crossing of the busy Lower Downs Road [Wimbledon] lacks even a dropped kerb and throws you blind into traffic… no work at all, not even new signposting, has been done here.”
Hopefully the recent Department for Transport announcement can reassure cyclists such as Andrew; our very own keen cyclist David Bott is certainly pleased with the news of progress for cycling.
He says, “It’s fantastic to see initiative, and even more promising that the UK’s walking and cycling charity Sustrans will be managing the funding – we can be rest assured that the funding is in good hands. Let’s hope that this is the start of a sustained investment to promote health by way of cycling and walking.”
Improve your commute with two wheels instead of four
National charity Cycling UK has been working hard for years to encourage commuting via bike through their Big Bike Revival. This too has had some enthusiasm injected into it thanks to the government’s plans; £1M worth, to be exact. The charity’s Chief Executive Paul Tuohy said, “We are delighted the Big Bike Revival will be going ahead again in 2019, helping tens of thousands more people to discover the joy of cycling.”
Fantastic news for cyclists up North too
Sometimes there’s a bit of a North-South divide, with citizens up North resentful that London receives the lion share of attention. But this can’t be said for the cycle rejuvenation plans, as the Midlands and upwards are firmly involved in cycling and walking talks too. Last month (March 2019) Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham reported that Mancunians will be able to appreciate 18 “truly transformational” cycling and walking projects across the city.
One example of this is a cycling bridge deemed “futuristic” that will make its mark on Stockport’s skyline. Andy Burnham said, “This is a hugely exciting time for Greater Manchester – we’re just at the start of a process that will see us eventually compete with some of the world’s best and most liveable cities like Vancouver, Copenhagen and New York City.
It’s not just Mancunians that are happy, either. Cinder Track North in Whitby will be upgraded, ready for more people to hop on their bikes, and a “poor” on-road section of the National Cycle Network between Dewsbury and Huddersfield will be segregated and converted to a traffic-free zone.
Walk to school, kids
Nicely coinciding with charity Sustrans’ big campaign #TheBigPedal, which aims to get more children to school without a car, Department for Transport has announced £60,000 funding towards the Modeshift STARs National School Travel Awards, the scheme that applauds children who have improved the environment by walking and cycling to school.
Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of Living Streets is behind this decision: “We are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of air pollution on our children’s health – stunting their lung development and increasing their risk of asthma attacks. One in four cars during peak hours are on the school run and the toxic fumes they produce stay around the school gates long after the cars have left.”
With so many optimistic steps already taken regarding out national levels of exercising, it looks like we’re going to enjoy a healthier, cheaper and less polluted future!
Did you know that we’re keen cyclists ourselves? We even have our own cycle team.