UK government warns local authorities to be ‘ambitious’ when bidding for Cycling Cash

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The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has written to local authorities to stress that potential cycling programs will have to ‘include segregation’ and that cycle lanes’ ‘marked only with white paint will not be funded’.

The letter echoes the department’s ambitions set out last year vis-à-vis local authorities who bid for money from the “Active Travel Fund”. This funding is for cycling and walking programs.

The latest tender, sent to local authorities this week, stresses the importance of high design standards to secure funding. To have a chance to progress, the offers must meet the new LTN 1/20 standard.

In May last year, the DfT told local authorities in England that the pandemic had “started at a steady pace with the closure of roads to through traffic, the installation of separate cycle paths and the widening of sidewalks “.

The letter sent to UK local authorities in May 2020 stated that ‘in order to receive money under this or future tranches you will need to show us that you have a quick and meaningful plan to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, including strategic corridors. ”

The letter was signed by Rupert Furness, deputy director of the London Department of Transport.

In the last letter, Furness reiterates that only “ambitious” projects will be successful.

Furness, who works for the Active and Accessible Travel unit within DfT, noted:

“The ministry only intends to fund programs that meet the cycling design standards set out in Local Transportation Note LTN 1/20. “

These new standards are part of the government’s plan to boost cycling and reap the associated benefits for health, air quality and congestion.

“Anything that doesn’t significantly change the status quo on the road will not be funded,” Furness said last year, using pragmatic language that strayed from public service standards.

Boris Johnson

The new emphasis on cycling comes from the top. Prior to becoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson was an everyday cycling commuter and when he took office he appointed journalist Andrew Gilligan as his transport adviser. Gilligan was cycling commissioner when Johnson was mayor of London, and it was Gilligan, not Johnson, who was most responsible for promoting London’s protected cycle paths program.

Gilligan, London’s ‘cycling czar’ from 2013 to 2016, works hand in hand with the officials of the Active and Accessible Travel team.

The latest letter is calling for capital funding for the current fiscal year 2021/22 under the government’s £ 2 billion ‘Gear Change’ program.

“All cycling programs will need to include separation or point closures to through traffic,” Furness said.

“Advisory cycle paths, and those marked only with white paint, will not be funded. “

All proposed programs must include plans to consult with local communities, the letter said.

“Consultation does not mean giving anyone a veto, demanding consensus on projects or prioritizing the strongest voices,” Furness adds.

In a search of local authorities who ripped up emergency bike lanes installed at the height of the pandemic, Furness said all programs “should be given enough time to settle and for the benefits to be realized. before any changes are made “.

The DfT could “recover funding when plans (…) are terminated prematurely,” Furness warns.

Become Dutch

As part of the latest tender process, the government wants more local authorities to develop aspiring “Mini-Holland” projects in the Netherlands. Such a program in Walthamstow has proven to be transformative, with a dramatic increase in walking and cycling, and a decrease in air pollution and noise.

“Mini Hollands involves intensive spending on local roads and streetscapes to make them, over time, as suitable for cyclists and pedestrians as their Dutch counterparts,” says the letter to local authorities who should install cycle lanes high-quality separations on main roads, low-traffic neighborhoods and main streets, and a greater allowance of road space for pedestrians.

The DfT wants to shortlist a dozen local authorities for Mini Holland support, with the hope that most will be outside London as part of the government’s “leveling” program.

“Candidate authorities must be places where there is serious political commitment to radical change,” says Furness, “not just for cyclists, but for all who live and work there”.

Social prescription

The DfT is also looking for four local authorities to participate in a pilot project of interventions on foot and by bicycle within the framework of a social prescription offer via so-called general practitioners or general practitioners.

“Cycling is one of the most effective health interventions a person can do,” said Furness.

According to a recent study from the University of Glasgow, cycling to work can help reduce the risk of developing cancer by 45%, the risk of heart disease 46% and the risk of 41% lower. premature death, compared to a non-active journey.

The project will seek to provide personalized care by health workers experienced in social prescribing. The programs will prescribe cycling or walking, where appropriate, and provide bicycles, as well as training, access to cycling groups and peer support.

Local authorities will also need to invest in improving infrastructure for these patients, such as separate cycle paths, low-traffic neighborhoods and secure bicycle parking spaces, the DfT letter adds.

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