Budget cuts threaten London’s cycling infrastructure
If you are a cyclist living in London or planning to tour the city and see it by bike, be aware that cycling in the city may soon be more dangerous as planned improvements to the city’s cycling infrastructure may have to be reversed. because there won’t be any money for it.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that the city’s roads will become more dangerous for cyclists if road safety programs are scrapped, as the UK government has cut funding to Transport for London (TfL), the body local responsible for maintaining the city’s cycling and walking infrastructure. TfL faces a huge budget shortfall and has also warned of massive cuts to bus, tube and road services if its funding is cut. The agency also said discussions with the government were continuing in its attempt to secure long-term financial assistance.
One of the main reasons for TfL’s revenue shortfall is reduced public transport fare revenue due to the Covid pandemic. This suggests that other cities planning improvements to cycling infrastructure could suffer the same fate for the same reason. TfL’s current emergency bailout deal with the government was due to expire on February 4, but the deal has been extended for two weeks. If there is no deal before this deadline, TfL’s Healthy Streets budget, which is for cycling and walking projects, will face a forced cut of £473million and have a budget shortfall of £1.5 billion by 2024-25.
To keep its budget viable, TfL has made emergency proposals which include scrapping walking and cycling schemes, as well as ending its Direct Vision scheme to protect vulnerable road users from lorries. Khan said this would have serious consequences for planned improvements in road safety and force TfL to adopt a policy of “managed decline” as further infrastructure projects will be shelved. “The bad news is that the managed decline not only means that we cannot progress at the rate that cyclists want, but that we will not be able to preserve the junctions that we have. [improved]“Khan told the Evening Standard.
Failure to improve cycling infrastructure could also prevent people from cycling for recreation or commuting. According to a recent Australian survey, the lack of proper cycling infrastructure, with cycle lanes physically separated from traffic, prevents people, even those who own bicycles, from cycling as much as they want. Nick Bowes, chief executive of the Center for London think tank, said encouraging walking and cycling was “crucial” if London was to have safer streets, cleaner air and less congestion. “If we are to have any chance of achieving these goals, it is crucial that more people walk and cycle for shorter journeys,” he said. “But it will be all the more difficult if the budget for Transport for London’s Healthy Streets is reduced. Without a funding regulation, we will struggle to build safe, well-designed routes that help people walk and cycle more.