Funding for walking

How best can we secure the improvements to the walking environment that BWA would like to see?  Can we do it by persuading the local authorities to allocate a certain percentage of transport funding to walking?

The context is:

  • Plans and strategies are not enough. Bristol City Council (BCC) and West of England Combined Authority (WECA) publish their transport strategies and plans, and consult on them, but the documents do not by themselves determine the prioritisation of schemes, and the subsequent spending decisions are less transparent and difficult to influence.
  • Active travel scheme proposals are ready. Bristol and other local authorities have drawn up walking and cycling schemes in the government-initiated Local Cycling and Walking Investment Plans.
  • Government funding dedicated to active travel is now available. The Boris Johnson government is at last making available funding for active travel. £2bn was announced in February 2020. In May, £250m of this money was brought forward for local authorities to implement temporary measures for walking and cycling.
  • Government has delegated to local authorities the allocation of transport funds. The government expects local and combined authorities to apply money to cycling and walking from any of a number of government funding pots: Transforming Cities Fund, Housing Infrastructure Fund, Sport England Strategy, Clear Air Fund. But the authorities have wide discretion in how to allocate the funds.
  • The case for active travel has never been stronger. The pandemic situation where people are encouraged not to use public transport makes walking and cycling an increasingly attractive choice.

One approach is to push BCC and WECA to commit to spending a certain percentage of funding on walking (and cycling).  That would ensure they get their fair share of transport scheme money. Otherwise cycling and walking are in danger of being the Cinderella causes, side-lined by the focus on the big high-cost schemes (mass transit/rail/bus/road).  BWA and other walking and cycling organisations in Bristol and Bath submitted a statement proposing this to the WECA Committee in February 2019.  This is the statement:

1) 15% commitment

Following the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) Safety Review, the government is now “encouraging local councils to invest around 15 per cent of their local transport infrastructure funding over time on safe and efficient cycling and walking infrastructure”.  We urge WECA and its constituent councils to make that commitment, and to include the commitment in the final version of the Joint Local Transport Plan, and to demonstrate that the planned schemes and packages listed in JLTP deliver on that.

2) Transforming Cities Fund

The Government announced the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund in the November 2017 budget, with some of the initial funding going to the six mayoral Combined Authorities on a per capita basis.  WECA received £80m, with a further £23m announced in the November 2018 budget.  The money is for public and sustainable transport improvements in intra-city connectivity. A year after the funding was announced, WECA has yet to make any public announcement about how the money will be spent, but it appears that most of the money will be spent on rail and other public transport, not walking and cycling.  By comparison, Greater Manchester received £243m and in June 2018 announced that it was allocating £160m (60%) to its Beelines walking and cycling project.  We urge WECA to allocate at least 15% of its Transforming Cities Fund to walking and cycling.

We accept the point that funding for walking improvements often comes as part of larger schemes – for instance, corridor route schemes or bus route schemes, and it is difficult to disaggregate the funding for a scheme into separate modes.  It is difficult but it is not impossible. Otherwise, how do BCC and WECA ensure that the funding decisions are in line with meeting the objectives of their transport strategy or plan?

BWA will continue to press the case for funding for walking.