The Cycling Budget Cut in England Expected to ‘cost £2bn long-term’

By Monica Buck

In an announcement on travel spendings earlier this week, Mark Harper, the transport secretary, had said that of £710m pledged on active travel in the 2021 spending review, just £100m more would be spent. So far only £230m has been spent, resulting in a £380m reduction.

The Labour party then used the Department for Transport’s (DfT) analysis to make a statement of their own. The analysis says that the active travel investments have an expected benefit-to-cost ratio of £5.62 per £1 spent. That means that in the long term, the cut would actually end up costing £2.1bn.

“Walking and cycling are the principal means by which we can build physical activity into our lifestyles and so stay healthy, become more healthy and/or reduce our risk of developing 20 conditions and diseases; including coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and mental health problems,” the authors of the analysis state. “These health impacts are not only a drain on the NHS but on the economy not least through absenteeism. So, a healthier population makes for a more robust and prosperous economy. So, improving health through cycling and walking benefits society at large.”

Cycling in London
The cut in England is expected to cost £2bn long-term. © Profimedia

The analysis makes for an interesting read for any cyclist, as it not only focuses on schemes realised in the UK but on those abroad as well. And it claims that the mean benefit-to-cost ratio for all schemes identified in the report (including the UK) is £6.28 per £1 spent. Meaning the ratio is more than likely even higher in other countries.

Anyway, let’s get back to the UK. Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said: “This short-sighted decision shows the Conservatives are out of ideas, and out of time. Not only will this harm public health and hit air quality, but it will cost the taxpayer too.

“The government’s own analysis shows that investment in walking and cycling has huge benefits for public health and the economy – and now it has become the latest in a long line of broken promises.”