On Thursday 19th I was due to second two motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group to develop a strategic costed cycling plan for Suffolk. The motion was proposed by my colleague Robert Lindsay, and – as I was unable to reach the meeting from my son’s graduation in Liverpool – seconded by another colleague, Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw (both Greens).
The first motion asked for a strategic, costed five-year cycling plan to be drawn up for Suffolk; secondly we asked for a commitment of 5% of the annual Integrated Transport Block (the equivalent of £160,000).
Both motions were vital: without a commitment of funding, it will be impossible to implement a cycling plan.
However, the Conservatives refused to commit any funding whatsoever to cycling infrastructure – thus managing to have their fiscal cake and eat it. Affordability is clearly a state of mind.
In the past, in the days when SCC was run by a Labour/LibDem coalition, SCC used to have a cycling team and a costed cycling infrastructure plan – which was allocated funds from the Transport budget every year. In 1995 the then Country Councillors voted to fully support plans to develop the Sustrans’ National Cycle Network routes in Suffolk and steady progress was made with this for several years.
Cycling budgets don’t just benefit cyclists. They assist other forms off travel. other modes of travel:
1) Most off-carriageway cycle infrastructure is designed to be of equal benefit to pedestrians e.g. shared use cycle paths; Toucan crossing; bridges – therefore ‘Safe Routes to School’ (for both cycling and walking).
2) More cycle commuters means less traffic on roads, leading to better journey times for those who really need their vehicles.
Since 2011, Suffolk and Ipswich were eligible for six sustainable travel grants from the Department for Transport, yet did not win a single one of these. By failing to commit a minimal amount of funding, it is likely that any future bids for funding will likewise fail.