The Combined Authority’s lack of ambition on cycling and walking is costing our region valuable funds

Lack of ambition means that the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) gained just £635,000 in the government’s latest active travel funding announcement, in stark contrast to the transport authorities for other regions. Ranking bottom of the UK’s Combined Authorities, the CPCA received 4% of the funds allocated to top-rated West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, an amount equivalent to 74p per CPCA resident. According to national charity Cycling UK, these funds have been allocated to Phase 2 of the Thorpe Wood cycleway in Peterborough and some School Streets schemes.

A cycle route which ends in the middle of a verge
There are plenty of parts of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s walking and cycling network which are in urgent need of active travel funding, such as this missing link between Huntingdon and St Ives.

Figures quoted on Cambridgeshire County Council’s website show that this level of investment would fund less than a mile of cycleway, and local campaign groups are furious at the potential millions sacrificed by the mayoral authority. The Department for Transport has made clear that successful funding proposals must involve significant changes to road layouts to give more space to people walking and cycling and all schemes must be compliant with LTN 1/20, the government’s standards on inclusive design. The region’s small allocation suggests that many local scheme proposals did not meet this brief, or that compliant proposals weren’t made at all.

This is not the first time Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s allocation has been lower than the figure it applied for, and most of the money gained for the previous set of schemes is yet to be spent, despite an initial implementation deadline of March 2022. In August 2021, Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said “the Active Travel funding is fundamental to enable stimulus toward real change” as he fought to rescue over half a million pounds of funding for active travel planning and behaviour change activities. That funding had been withheld due to the government’s disappointment with the outcomes of previous schemes including the Mill Road bus gate in Cambridge and the pop-up cycle lane on Peterborough’s Crescent Bridge.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has received less active travel funding than any other Combined Authority in the UK

Campaign groups say it is time for change. The region’s decision-makers must work together to plan programmes of ambitious active travel schemes if they are serious about achieving local transport and climate goals. The groups also call for greater transparency and community collaboration on the application process. The Combined Authority must work closely with local active travel experts to ensure the success of future bids for investment.

Josh Grantham, Infrastructure Campaigner at Camcycle, said:

Each tranche of active travel funding that is sacrificed, smaller than it should be, or needing to be paid back to the Department for Transport, represents many thousands of potential walking and cycling journeys that could have been made by local people. In Greater Cambridge, active travel already delivers £215.6 million in economic benefit and saves 19,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index. It’s time to build on this success and ensure high-quality infrastructure is delivered right across the region, giving more people the choice to travel sustainably for everyday journeys and helping to tackle transport poverty.”

A spokesperson for Ely Cycling Campaign said:

It is frustrating to see such a small amount of funding made available when there are plenty of opportunities to improve walking and cycling across East Cambridgeshire. There’s still no sign of the active travel leader and forum promised by the Mayor last year, or consultation on plans for schemes that could attract funds. Active travel should be safe, attractive and accessible for many trips, but investment is needed if the climate emergency and other environmental and health concerns are to be addressed.”

John Morris, founder of Hunts Walking & Cycling Group, said:

While impressive Active Travel Fund schemes are being delivered across England it feels as if absolutely nothing has changed for people in Huntingdonshire.  The government has made it clear that it wants to see ambitious schemes that reallocate road space to people walking and cycling. This requires strong political leadership at a local level. Decision-makers across all levels of government in Cambridgeshire must urgently work together to secure the funding we desperately need to deliver improvements to our walking and cycling infrastructure.”

A spokesperson for Peterborough Cycle Forum said:

We welcome new funding for cycling and walking in Peterborough, but we remain concerned about the way that the Thorpe Wood cycleway (part of an £8.1 million roadbuilding project) has been prioritised over schemes that would deliver a greater benefit to more people. We need to see transparency and collaboration from Peterborough City Council and the Combined Authority so that a detailed programme of transformative schemes can be agreed upon and every bit of available funding is taken up.”

The Combined Authority is currently consulting on its draft Local Transport and Connectivity Plan which it says will guide all future transport projects for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The results of last summer’s public consultation on Cambridgeshire’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) are due to be presented at the county council’s Highways and Transport Committee on 12 July. The Department for Transport recommended that all local authorities should develop LCWIPs and have advised that those authorities with plans will be well placed to bid for future funding.

Active travel fund overview

2020-2021 funding

Tranche 1 (announced May 2020) and Tranche 2 (announced November 2020)

The Combined Authority announced that it had secured £2,875,000 of funding to improve cycle and pedestrian facilities across the region, split across two budget allocations. The final funding package was over half a million pounds smaller at £2,366,679.

Some experimental schemes were delivered, including the Mill Road bus gate, a pop-up cycle lane on Crescent Bridge in Peterborough, an experimental one-way system on Bell Hill in Histon and removal of parking in Station Road, Ely. Cambridgeshire County Council offered to assess all schools in the county as part of a School Streets project and trial schemes took place outside at least 13 different schools. The Greater Cambridge Partnership delivered six modal filter trials in Cambridge: the Newtown area, Carlyle Road, Luard Road, Nightingale Avenue, Silver Street and Storey’s Way. These have all since been made permanent, along with the Ely and Histon schemes. Some budget seems to have been used for painted advisory cycle lanes in locations including Milton, Girton and Chesterton Road in Cambridge even though these are unlikely to have met the government’s standards for funding. Some pavement widening schemes and new cycle parking stands were also installed.

In summer 2021, both the Mill Road and Crescent Bridge schemes were removed, despite local support to see the trials continued.

Many of the proposals for experimental schemes were postponed; a public consultation on several options for Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire took place in summer 2021. Nearly a year later, none of these schemes has been delivered.

2021-2022 funding

Announced May 2022

 The Combined Authority submitted an application for funding in August 2021. Initial indications of success were issued to transport authorities in March 2022. The Combined Authority’s budget monitor report from that month suggests it was expecting £1,545,000 for proposals including the Fletton Quays footbridge in Peterborough and the A10 footbridge at Lancaster Way in Ely.

In May 2022, the Department for Transport announced that the Combined Authority had been awarded £635,000.