Proposed Cycling Budget Represents Just 5% of Transport Budget

Our friends at Living Heart for Bristol have made some interesting points in their response to the consultation on the draft cycling strategy. In particular that cycling is at 8% in Bristol at the moment and the increased spend would take investment to only 5% of transport budget. You can read our response here.

Recently-published figures by The Treasury have cast doubt on the claims of some local politicians that Bristol is planning to spend too much on cycling.  The Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis for 2014 show that total public spending on transport in 2013/14 was £22.2bn – equivalent to £315 per person.[i]  The Draft Bristol Cycling Strategy is planning to spend £7m per year, equivalent to £16 per head.[ii]  Some local politicians have criticised the budget, describing it as “unrealistic” and calling for the money to be spent on rail instead.[iii]

Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol* and a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at UWE explained:

“Across the UK, public spending on transport was £315 per person last year.  Most of that money is spent centrally on roads and railways.  Less than a quarter was spent by local authorities.  By contrast money for cycling, or for improvements to the pedestrian environment, are almost entirely spent locally.  If you look at the local budgets in isolation the small sums of money for cycling or walking may seem much bigger than they really are.  Bristol is planning to spend more than most British cities on cycling infrastructure but measured per head it only represents about 5% of transport spending – when 8% of journeys are made by bike.  We would certainly like to see more investment in the rail network, but sums of this size are peanuts compared to the rail or road budgets.  To give just one example, the two extra tracks from Filton to Temple Meads are expected to cost £50 million.  In any debate about spending on cycling or pedestrian improvements, we should never lose sight of that bigger picture.”

Martin Tweddell of the Bristol Cycling Campaign added:

“In this context it’s worth reminding some of our local politicians that we all pay for the roads through general taxation.  There is no such thing as ‘road tax’ – it was abolished in 1937.  Vehicle Excise Duty (the tax disc) is a tax on pollution – it has nothing to do with roads.  The least polluting cars are exempt.  Roads, railways and cycle paths are all financed from general taxation, so the argument that motorists pay for the roads is an urban myth.”