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Cycling and Walking

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 2 May 2019

Cycling and walking are an important part of transport strategy for this Government, and of course they bring great benefits in terms of health, combating obesity and improving air quality, and, as the Committee on Climate Change has reminded us, with their effects on the environment more widely. We published the cycling and walking investment strategy in 2017. Since then, we have conducted a major cycling and walking safety review, as well as providing a lot more funding; about £2 billion is being invested over this Parliament. The Department is also supporting 46 local authorities with their local cycling and walking infrastructure plans, so they can deliver cycling and walking schemes according to a more phased and consistent long-term programme.

As the Minister is an MP in neighbouring Herefordshire, I hope he can come to visit the excellent new cycle track in Shropshire. It has been built by Shropshire Council between the villages of Pontesbury and Minsterley and makes it more safe to cycle between villages in our county. Will the Minister come and have a look at the scheme? What more can he do to support councils in the building of safe cycle tracks?

My hon. Friend will be aware that we have just made an award to Shrewsbury for the relief road, through the large local majors scheme. I look forward to visiting that road at some future point, and at the same time I will certainly tie in a happy cycle down the excellent cycle path between Pontesbury and Minsterley. My hon. Friend should know that, more widely, we are now investing at a high rate in cycling and walking schemes, including through the transforming cities fund, which is now up to £2.5 billion in total; the housing infrastructure fund; and our new £675 million future high streets fund, which is specifically targeted at smaller conurbations.

Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Community Council recently submitted a £2 million community-led bid to the Sustrans Community Links Plus competition, with the ambition of making the area Scotland’s most accessible community. Will the Minister welcome this cycling-village project which, as well as linking three national cycle routes, will be pedestrian, wheelchair and autism friendly? Would he welcome similar community-led initiatives throughout the UK?

As the hon. Lady will know, I am almost idiotically keen on cycling projects, so I massively welcome that development. We have recently funded Sustrans with a further £20 million-odd to support the national cycle network and are a great believer in much of the work that it does.

We know from the international evidence what would work to boost us to continental levels of cycling: consistent, long-term funding, rather than stop-start funding, and for both capital and revenue projects. Will the Minister set out what he is planning to ask for? Will he press for cycling funding of £10 to £35 per head, to bring us up to continental levels?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I actually spent two hours yesterday in front of the Transport Committee debating exactly that question and specifying in some detail some of my hopes and expectations for future work, including for the spending review. Of course the hon. Lady is right about the importance of consistency and longevity in funding—that is what our local cycling and walking investment plans are doing and why we welcome the work that has been done in Birmingham by Mayor Andy Street and in Manchester through the Chris Boardman and Brian Deegan project—but I remind her that in 2010 the level of funding for cycling and walking was £2.50 a head; it is now at more than £7, and I hope that that upward direction will continue.