Government criticised for huge active travel budget cuts

Tue,21 March 2023
News Being Active Transport

The government has been heavily criticised for a recent announcement that it intends to cut the active travel budget by an estimated £200 million. This represents a two-thirds cut to promised capital investment in walking and cycling.

A Labour Party analysis has estimated that the decision will cost£2bn in the long term through its impact on public health and the wider economy. Labour used the Department for Transport’s (DfT) own analysis, which says that active travel investments have a “very high” expected benefit-to-cost ratio of £5.62 per £1 spent.

This is partly because of improvements to areas such as road safety and pollution if more people walk or cycle rather than drive, but also because of the significant health impact of people becoming more physically active.

A diverse coalition of organisations, including the DPO Wheels for Wellbeing has written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking the cuts to be reversed. 

In the letter, they argue that the cuts will counteract the recent progress in the active travel space, which had been driven in part by the commitments to cycling made in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, the government's ongoing commitment to Net Zero, and the commitment to cycling the Prime Minister made in the 2022 Conservative leadership race.

According to the letter, the benefits of supporting active travel far outweigh the costs. People's decisions to walk, wheel and cycle took 14.6 million cars off the road in 2021. Making these journeys without a car saved 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, prevented 138,000 serious long-term health conditions and avoided more than 29,000 early deaths.

Mikey Erhardt, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Disability Rights UK said:

"Seeing the government turn its back on active travel in the UK is incredibly disappointing. These cuts represent a deprioritisation of the right of Disabled people to live independent, fulfilling lives.

Disabled people are less likely to drive than non-disabled people, and for many, the current state of affairs leaves us trapped or afraid of the dangers of travelling in the ways that suit us. We hope the government decides against its recent course of action."