Newly funded projects will provide even more people, especially in rural and deprived areas, the choice to travel by walking, wheeling or cycling.

Communities across England will benefit from £101 million of government funding for high-quality walking and cycling routes, improving the quality of local public engagement for new walking and cycling schemes, free e-cycle loans, expanding trials of side road zebra crossings and developing new active travel routes in National Parks, government agency Active Travel England (ATE) announced today (23 March 2024).

The new funding will enable local authorities to deliver walking and cycling schemes and dedicated funding has also been issued to help councils undertake proper consultation with local communities. Together, these measures will unlock sustainable transport options for millions more people across England and give people the choice to travel safely on foot or by cycle. It will particularly benefit people living in deprived or rural areas with almost half of funding going to deprived communities.

The schemes, funded by ATE, have been designed to benefit all communities, and local authorities will work closely with residents to ensure they are attractive and inclusive for all. Safety and accessibility are at the heart of the newly funded projects to give even more people the choice to travel by walking or cycling.

ATE has also today announced a £200,000 expansion of trials into simple zebra crossings of side roads. First trialled in Greater Manchester in 2021, research has found that the markings lead to drivers giving way 65% more than where there is no marking.

Now, delivering on commitments made in their landmark trailblazer devolution deals, both Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are working with the government to explore the implications of, and options for, introducing side road zebras. A survey in 2021 found that almost 8 in 10 parents would feel safer about their child walking to school if there were zebra crossings on side roads. According to National Travel Survey, in 2022, 50% of trips to school were by walking or cycling (children aged 5 to 16).

National Active Travel Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said:

This funding is not only going to give millions of people safer and more enjoyable ways to get to school, the shops and workplaces but it will also help local authorities to work with communities to come up with plans for future projects that will make the most difference, providing excellent value for money.

We’re not just talking towns and cities. A lot of the funding is going to rural areas and we’re funding National Parks to develop new walking and cycling routes. This money is about innovation, too, and we’re excited to work with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to trial and assess simpler zebra crossings and technologies to assist visually impaired people.

Roads Minister, Guy Opperman, said:

We’re committed to ensuring people can travel in the way that works best for them, which is why we’re investing over £100 million for over 100 kilometres of new walking and cycling routes, improved access to our national parks, and e-cycle loan schemes.

This funding is not just an investment in new infrastructure, but in communities that will benefit from the social mobility and health benefits that improved and new walking and cycling routes will bring.

Local authorities will receive funding for projects in areas from Southampton up to the North East. Investment from Active Travel Fund 4 Extension alone will deliver almost 70 miles of new or improved walking and cycling routes, 154 new crossings and 47 safer junctions. This will give millions more people the option to walk, wheel or cycle, improving their health, reducing air pollution and making streets safer for all. 

The £101 million funding package is made up of:

  • £45.7 million of capital funding awarded to local authorities as part of Active Travel Fund 4 Extension funding
  • £51.5 million of revenue funding awarded to local authorities as part of the annual Capability Fund for 2023/24 and 2024/25
  • £2.4 million to local authorities and Cycling UK for e-cycle loan programmes
  • £1 million to National Parks
  • £200,000 to West Midlands Combined Authority to trial simple zebra  crossings on side roads

Four authorities will also receive a share of £2.4 million funding to pilot free e-cycle loan schemes in their areas, following a national trial which saw people take out a free month-long e-cycle loan. This will give people and businesses the opportunity to try e-cycles in South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Leicester and Luton and Dunstable. Removing the cost barrier helps people see if an e-cycle works for their lifestyle or their business.

A further £1 million will support the development of walking and cycling routes in England’s National Parks. This will enable authorities to develop plans for better links between rural towns and villages, with an aim of unlocking better transport choice for people living in and visiting rural areas.

Currently 9 in 10 journeys to National Parks are made in a car. The funding will allow authorities to develop a pipeline of projects for future investments, with a focus on inclusive routes that connect schools, employment and leisure sites with local communities. Better walking and cycling routes will bring health, environmental and cost benefits to residents and the more than 90 million people who visit National Parks each year.

David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Cycling Lead for England’s National Parks, said:

Credit to Active Travel England for reaching out to National Park Authorities. We are now working together to develop improved guidance to rural local authorities and initiate and deliver some fantastic projects to improve walking and cycling opportunities for millions of people.

This new funding will make a real difference to the delivery of our ambitions around improving the health and wellbeing of the nation and providing the greater travel opportunities that are needed to reduce our carbon emissions.  

This is the first-time specific allocations for local authorities have been revealed. The money, which comes from a range of funding pots, paves the way for improvements over the 23/24 and 25/26 periods. London’s transport budget is devolved, which means London boroughs are not included in the funding package.

ATE will continue to work with authorities to ensure that schemes are delivered to a high-quality to benefit communities as a whole. A guide to best practice consultation and engagement is being developed and will be published in the spring.

Source: Active Travel England and Guy Opperman MP

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