Last week City of York Council was awarded £350,000 of active travel funding to carry out cycle parking improvements and create ‘people streets’ outside two schools. This small crumb from the £2 billion active travel funding pot confirms that York, along with Bournemouth and Worcestershire, has been placed firmly on the naughty step by the Department for Transport. The slap in the face reflects it’s failure to implement previous active travel schemes such as the segregated cycle route along Bootham and Shipton Road, and its refusal to follow Government guidelines on schemes such as Tadcaster Road and Piccadilly. Meanwhile, councils that have proved they are serious about active travel have been rewarded with millions of pounds in the latest round of funding, with Slough receiving £10.1m, Oxfordshire £10.4m, Gloucestershire £14.1m, for ambitious active travel schemes. “My commute to work involves cycling along Bootham. Every evening there are illegally parked cars blocking the cycle lane and footpath, and the journey is unnecessarily stressful and dangerous. York was awarded the funding to sort this out two years ago and yet they haven’t even managed to produce a design yet. It’s pitiful,” says campaign member John Skelton.
“Earlier this year the council confirmed its Transport Capital Budget for the next year was just under £23m. Had York been ambitious about active travel, like Slough, we could have had £33m to play with,” says campaign member Kate Ravilious. “York’s incompetence is costing us all dear.”
Bids for the next round of active travel funds will likely have to be submitted by August, and in order to be in with a chance of significant funds York will have to produce some seriously ambitious and connected active travel plans. “We’ve already seen plans like Tadcaster Road and York Road being compromised due to lack of sufficient available funding. It’s high time York had a transport strategy and a bigger plan,” says campaign member Nathan Horner. “It’s so amazing seeing cities around the country being transformed, and the freedom it is bringing to people from age 5 to 95 (and more!). Yet in York we are seeing nothing but small stretches of disconnected improvements and excuses for delays.”
And it isn’t just pedestrians and cyclists that lose out. The Department for Transport has made it clear that council’s that don’t get their act together on active travel will also lose out on wider transport funding. So be it money for repairing pot-holes, better buses, or widening the ring-road, York’s failure on active travel is going to cause misery for everyone who needs to move around York.