On 9th May the government announced a £2 billion package to create a new era for cycling and walking:
It will be vital to provide more space for walking and cycling, both to shift capacity from public transport and to enable social distancing – particularly in urban areas. There will also be significant public health and other benefits to this approach. To support this change in approach, the Secretary of State announced a new £250 million emergency active travel fund on 9 May to support implementation of pop-up bike lanes, widened pavements, and cycle and bus-only corridors.
Worcestershire’s share of this £250m is £1.353m. The bid made by Worcestershire County Council on Friday 5th June was for £271k, which is phase 1 of this money.
As the government statement quoted above says, this is for “pop-up bike lanes, widened pavements, and cycle and bus-only corridors”. In more detailed guidance to councils they refer to the types of schemes they would like, such as “reallocating road space for active travel – for example, by rapidly introducing temporary measures using cones, safety barriers, or road closures to motor traffic (for part or all of the day).” For a list of the types of interventions they recommend, this document contains a list copied from this official guidance.
However, if you look at the bid by Worcestershire, it almost completely omits these measures. Instead, it promotes painting some white lines on routes between urban areas. Apart from white lines being practically worthless, as most cyclists know, it completely misses the target of the funding, which is to help people to social distance in busy urban areas. Two additional measures in the county’s bid are, firstly, for better provision of cycle parking in businesses, education and retail locations, and, secondly, for promotion and awareness of active travel routes partly via an app.
As many people said when they first saw the bid, “where is the rest of it?” Unfortunately, that was all there was. It seems highly unlikely that the county will receive any of the £271k bid for, as it clearly does not meet the criteria.
So, why did the council send such a poor bid? The obvious reason is that there are people in the Cabinet who do not support more cycling. Councillor Alan Amos, Cabinet member for Highways, has said that he does not support closing or taking away any space from roads. As this was exactly what the government was asking for, it is not surprising that their bid was so poor.