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Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 18 July 2019

6. What recent estimate he has made of the resources required to implement his Department’s cycling and walking investment strategy. (912029)

16. What recent estimate he has made of the resources required to implement his Department’s cycling and walking investment strategy. (912040)

Spending on cycling and walking in England has doubled from £3.50 per head to around £7 per head over the current spending review period. The Government estimate that around £2 billion will have been spent on measures to implement the strategy between 2016 to 2021 alone.

While I welcome that increased investment, the Department has acknowledged that “current policy and resource levels will not enable the current aim of doubling the number of trips made wholly or partially by cycling to be met”, including in my own constituency of Warwick and Leamington. Will the Minister meet me and my parliamentary neighbour, the right hon. and learned Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright), to discuss a particular project, namely the Kenilworth to Leamington cycle route, which is in desperate need of investment?

I am always very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. I would point out, however, that as well as the doubling of investment in cycling and walking and the £2 billion, we channel money from the Department for Transport and the Government to local authorities such as his so that there is even more money for them to allocate to cycling and walking.

But will the Minister publish the evidence his Department has commissioned? Surely that will show that the current levels of investment will not be sufficient to meet the target. When he recognises that, will he direct his attention to the disused railway that Highways England wants to turn into a cycle lane between Ulverston canal and Greenodd roundabout?

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Morecambe Bay cycle way. The Government recognise the benefits of such schemes, which may be able to provide opportunities to increase active travel and significant benefit to the local economy, as well as to health and the environment. We have recently provided more than £20 million of support to Sustrans, to improve stretches of the national cycle network. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman if he wishes, but the reality is that we are putting considerable investment into cycling across the country.

I have seen the benefits of active travel and have been using the A44 cycle path from Woodstock to Oxford, but I want to see the same in other areas of my constituency, not least Eynsham, to alleviate, among other things, the congestion on the A40. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how that strategy might help the B4044 community path?

I know that my hon. Friend is an avid cyclist and he sets an example of active travel that is beneficial both to the environment and to health. I would be very happy to meet him to discuss the route he has in mind.

Studies now show that, even among older people, the resumption of an active lifestyle, including cycling and walking, helps counter the onset of dementia. Will the Minister do more to highlight that, to try to get older people even more active?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. There is no doubt that life expectancy increases among older people who are active. In fact, that is the case across all ages. We support that, which is why considerable investment is going into cycling and walking. I very much accept that the more active any person of any age is, the more likely it is that they will be in good health.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), the shadow Transport Secretary, has made clear the scale of the challenge we face with climate change and the urgent need to cut emissions from transport. Increasing cycling and walking is particularly important if we are to avoid a climate crisis. If cycling levels in the UK were the same as those in the Netherlands, carbon dioxide emissions from cars would fall by one third. Given the scale of the threat from climate change, why are the Government not doing more to avert this crisis?

The Government are leading the way in promoting the use of cycling and walking. We have doubled investment and it absolutely dwarfs that of the Labour party when it was last in government. The fact is that we have put £2 billion into cycling and walking, which is a monumental increase on Labour’s investment. We recognise that it is good both for the environment and for health, including mental health and wellbeing. That is why the investment is going in. We also have to factor in safety—we are very focused on that. As we have reiterated time and again, this is a priority for the Department.

The Government have once again shown their lack of commitment to tackling the real problems facing this country. The Secretary of State has failed to meet his own targets for encouraging cycling, and the Department for Transport is spending just 1.5% of its budget on walking and cycling. The Minister’s attempts to dress up what is clearly a failing policy are, quite frankly, deeply disappointing and show that the Government are simply not capable of providing the leadership needed to tackle climate change, which is the greatest threat to our country and, indeed, to humanity. When will the Secretary of State and his colleagues get a grip and show some leadership?

There is £50 million for Bikeability training for schoolchildren; £101 million for cycling infrastructure for cycle ambition cities; £80 million for the local authority access fund; £85 million from Highways England for cycling and walking; £597 million from the local growth fund; £77 million for local road schemes; £194 million from the integrated transport block for micro-enhancement projects—I shall keep going until Mr Speaker stops me—£196 million from the highways maintenance refund; and some £500 million from a range of cross-Government infrastructure funds, so there are hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, and that is what the Department is doing.

I must say, having listened to the Minister I do not think I can take any more such excitement. It is almost too much.