A new network of cycle paths could be on the horizon for Suffolk, if councillors agree to a request for a five-year funding plan for cycling infrastructure within the county.
Councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group at Suffolk County Council have put forward two motions for the Council to debate at its meeting on Thursday 19 June.
The motions, proposed by Cllr Robert Lindsay (Green) and seconded by Cllr Caroline Page (Liberal Democrat), ask the council to draw up a costed five-year cycling plan and commit to ring-fencing at least 5% of its annual local transport budget for cycling infrastructure.
Cllr Robert Lindsay said:
“We hope the Conservative administration will support this, since it is only really asking them to fulfil their election promises to the residents of Suffolk that voted for them.
Proper investment into cycling infrastructure is also key to supporting their Most Active County and Greenest County initiatives. The county has done some good work encouraging cycling as a sport but many, many more people would leave their car at home if they felt they had a safe cycle route to town for work or shops.”
Cllr Caroline Page added:
“Given the recent unfortunate decision to change our county’s school transport policy, it is now more vital than ever before to ensure we have safe cycle networks that link places people need to go – otherwise, families will have no alternative but to drive their children to school.”
The importance of investing in cycling infrastructure is widely acknowledged by the Conservative Party. Suffolk Conservatives’ election manifesto in 2017 included a pledge to “develop new cycle networks”, whilst the government published a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in April 2017.
However, research shows that Suffolk County Council invested just £1.48 per head in cycling support and infrastructure in the 2016-17 financial year. The average across the country is £4.25 – and that’s excluding cities like London that have won special Government grants.
By contrast Cambridge invests £13 a head, Bristol’s new cycling strategy commits the council to £16 a head, in London the figure is £18 a head, and Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council recently committed 8.5% of their integrated transport block to active travel. The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group recommends that £10-20 per head needs to be spent on cycling in order to shift people from driving to cycling as a mode of transport, rather than just a leisure time activity.
Cllr Lindsay commented:
“There is a clear pattern emerging across the country, with more and more councils becoming aware of the importance of investing in cycling infrastructure. As a rural county with diminishing public transport, it is vital that Suffolk County Council joins them in developing a well-planned and properly funded cycle network.”
The motions read as follows:
Motion 1: Given that the Suffolk Conservative’s county council election manifesto in 2017 included a promise to build a network of cycle paths, the Council requests that the Cabinet set up an appropriate cross party working group (task and finish group or policy development panel) to develop a strategic, costed five-year (2019-2024) cycling plan that supports a network of safe, accessible and direct routes that link places people need to get to. This would include a prioritised programme of works, setting out the funding implications for the County Council so that Cabinet can consider this as part of the 2019-20 budget.
Motion 2: The Council further requests that the council allocate a minimum of 5% of each year’s Integrated Transport Block to cycling infrastructure.