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£22m for London borough active travel schemes (so far)

London Cycling Campaign | 19th June 2020

The first three weeks of TfL disbursing active travel funds to London boroughs has seen 24 boroughs funded to a total of £22.26m, Laura Laker writing for Road.cc has revealed.

If your borough hasn’t had much funding yet, or it has, now is the perfect moment to push our #StopTheTrafficTide action to members: https://membership.lcc.org.uk/help-london-stop-tide-motor-traffic-returning

1 minute read

  • £22m to boroughs in 3 to 6 week programme, with more funding to come, half of funding so far for strategic cycle routes, with over £4m on low traffic neighbourhoods
  • Lack of clarity so far on interface between DfT and TfL, further funding, as well as coherence and quality of schemes
  • Pace still a major concern for boroughs and TfL
  • London Assembly member Caroline Russell points out that overall active travel funding for boroughs has faced huge cuts
  • Do our #StopTheTrafficTide action please

TfL, DfT, boroughs oh my!

The £22.26m is nearly half of the pot TfL has to use itself, or disburse to boroughs, on active travel schemes during the crisis in the first round of funding. It’s unclear how further DfT funding to London will be disbursed through the rest of the financial year. TfL has received an initial £55m for TLRN (red route) and borough schemes in the DfT’s first tranche of funding from which this £22m is drawn. DfT also gave £1.7m to TfL specifically on top and has put aside £100,000 for each borough too to bid for. A further £20m is set aside for London from the DfT by the end of financial year. But it’s unclear if any further active travel money will go to TfL on top or not. Three further weeks of funding rounds are expected from TfL to the boroughs in this first tranche.

Of the £22.26m, half goes to strategic cycle routes, over £4m going to low traffic neighbourhoods, over £3m to town centre schemes and £1.75m to “School Streets”. Many of the larger allocations by borough appear to be to finish off existing schemes that have already been started on.

The known unknowns

Our infrastructure campaigner Simon Munk is quoted extensively in Laura Laker's piece. The concerns he has raised thus far are:

  • How are DfT and TfL funding streams aligning? No one appears to have heard yet on DfT funding bids, but obviously schemes should connect up even when they come from different funding pots, and should align in terms of objectives, quality etc.
  • Some of the boroughs already funded have no track record of delivering the types of schemes they’ve got funding for. Some of the boroughs funded have failed to achieve high-quality schemes in the past. Some even have history for squandering funds and/or being openly hostile to walking and cycling schemes of any merit in the past. Simon in the piece says these boroughs will need “watching like hawks” on pace, quality, value-for-money.
  • Obviously with only half the money disbursed and more elements of bids already made potentially still to be funded, the funding picture is very partial. But it is a concern that boroughs who have been delivering bold schemes, rapidly, in this crisis, in some cases have received far less than boroughs who have done little to nothing thus far and don’t have a great track record of delivery either. Of course it may also be the bid timing, or the bids put in, but it’s worrying that proactive boroughs such as Tower Hamlets have received so little thus far.
  • Thus far there is also little clarity as to how these schemes have been assessed not just on quality, but also on coherence. We urgently need a network of cycle routes, as underlined by the DfT comissioned Cohesive Cycle Network. we need to reduce motor traffic and we need high quality walking and cycling where it counts most. Do these schemes meet up, form a network, help the boroughs fulfil TfL’s “Strategic Cycling Analysis” etc? We can’t tell so far.
  • There’s also little clarity as to the approaches favoured. Some of the schemes funded here appear to be finishing off half-done schemes, some appear to be permanent schemes already planned and now brought forward, others entirely temporary materials approaches.
  • Pace for both TfL and borough schemes remains a major concern. Remember, Paris has put in 50km of cycle track already during the crisis. We’re at probably a 10th of that, if not less. With motor traffic levels rising every day, it is imperative London moves fast. Yet many of these boroughs haven’t started really delivering (while others have been doing major schemes without funding already). And we’re hearing worrying rumours of many of the usual vested interests dragging the pace of progress down to a crawl – the Mayor, his commissioner, and TfL must act fast and make sure these schemes are got in quick – streamlining approvals and tweaking schemes on site if necessary. But London can no longer dot every I in triplicate just to make sure every stakeholder is perfectly satisfied with a scheme – despite what some say, cycling campaigners don’t get a veto for schemes, and nor should other stakeholders.

It’s also worth noting London Assembly member Caroline Russell has pointed out that, despite DfT funding TfL for active travel measures, the overall “Healthy Streets” budget faces an effective £300m shortfall, with borough active travel schemes slashed this year by effectively £70m.

As above, this is early days for TfL funding and we’ve not yet seen DfT funding – so you shouldn’t be disheartened if your borough isn’t funded yet (although now is a perfect moment to push our #StopTheTrafficTide action again to make sure your council leader has put in a bold bid: https://membership.lcc.org.uk/help-london-stop-tide-motor-traffic-returning

Either way, this looks like a lot of very useful and exciting schemes, and indeed some signs the Mayor, TfL and the boroughs are beginning to shift gears finally. If we’re to have a city “unrivalled” for active travel as Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman has said, we’ll need a lot more schemes, faster, to catch up to Paris. And, as Caroline points out, we’ll need funding to turn these schemes permanent and to #StopTheTrafficTide coming back, resulting in more cars than we’ve seen for decades clogging our city streets.