Active travel funding should be priority for City Region Deals

By John Lauder,
Cyclists on shared use path, beside main road

Scotland rightly has strong policies for both walking and cycling and while funding is at record levels, local authorities need more.

City Region Deals in Scotland could offer much more to walking and cycling.

Earlier this week we submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s Local Government and Communities Committee call for evidence on City Region Deals in Scotland.

City Region Deals are regional partnerships aiming to accelerate growth by attracting government and private sector investment.

Our evidence highlighted the fact that opportunities to promote and fund active travel have, so far, not been fully exploited in Scotland.

Agreements so far in the Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness regions have generally focussed on road building projects and made only vague commitments to cycling.

By way of comparison, the Greater Cambridge City Deal included over £8 million for cycling. That is approximately £8.30 per head for cycling, across the area’s population of around 960,000.

Active travel in Scotland

As a charity which helps people walk and cycle for more of the journeys we make every day, we think more should be done to promote active travel.

Scotland rightly has strong policies for both walking and cycling and while funding is at record levels, local authorities need more. We therefore think that there should be an expectation that government policies play a fundamental role in any devolved transport funding and have a greater impact on future City Region Deals.

Looking to the future

For the Deals already agreed, the potential to promote walking and cycling does not end with signing a City Region Deal.

Following the agreement of their Deal, Sheffield City Region have been able to successfully bid for £7.5 million to fund more than 20 cycling and walking projects including cycle training, maintenance, bike hire and secure cycle parking facilities.

And, although new grant funding by Glasgow City Council and planned improvements by Edinburgh City Council in particular are significant and welcome investment in active travel, this is not from City Region budgets.

What we would like to see

Sustrans Scotland would like to see active travel funding included in City Region Deals as it has been in England to ensure that we better balance our streets and places for walking and cycling.

Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the direction of City Region Deals. So far the transport priority has been vehicular movement at the expense of active travel. If this continues it could undo significant progress across Scotland.

This is a chance for substantial local funding to meet national walking and cycling priorities and deliver economic growth at the same time.

It must not be missed.

Read our walking and cycling manifesto for the 2017 local government elections in Scotland