Get on your bike? Not if some Tory councils have their way

Local authorities still see ‘the car as king’ and have been abandoning government plans for cycle lanes and pedestrian areas

Transport officials have cut funding to three Conservative-controlled councils for failing to encourage walking and cycling amid a local Tory backlash against government-backed plans to reduce traffic and pollution.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has been forced to reduce active travel funding to a string of councils after Tory councillors removed pop-up cycle lanes and pedestrianised areas before they had a chance to change the way people travel.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead did not receive any funding to draw up cycling and walking infrastructure plans last year after it abandoned proposals for two low-traffic neighbourhoods.

This month the Tory-run borough announced it was removing pavement widening measures on eight streets, partly to increase car parking bays. In a town forum discussing the removal, a council officer declared the “car remains king” in Maidenhead.

Martin Richardson, who cycles with his son in the borough, said many felt it was too busy to cycle even short distances. “People feel frightened,” he said. “It is not inviting for families [to cycle] because there is no protection.”

West Sussex county council was refused more active travel funding after it ripped out a popular cycle lane in Shoreham-by-Sea, which linked five schools and had been used for 30,000 cycle trips, within weeks of its installation in 2020. Leicestershire county council, which has removed pop-up cycle lanes , also lost funding.

One non-Tory council, Brighton and Hove, had funding withheld after Conservative and Labour councillors outvoted a minority Green party administration to take down a temporary cycle lane connecting schools and workplaces, despite a report warning removal would negatively impact safety and the environment.

The government’s active travel strategy states funding will be stopped if councils are “not taking active travel seriously” including removing “schemes prematurely”.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We have consistently made clear to local authorities that they must deliver good quality active travel schemes, to ensure our roads work for everyone – or funding will be withheld.”

Cycling UK said it was concerned too many councils were removing schemes prematurely. “Survey after survey shows active travel measures are actually popular but councillors and MPs are listening to a noisy minority and a misinformation campaign by parts of the media,” said Duncan Dollimore from the charity.

The councils of Windsor and Maidenhead, and Leicestershire both said they were committed to developing cycling and walking plans. West Sussex said it was delivering permanent walking and cycling improvements across the county.


Tom Wall

The GuardianTramp

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