Sustrans Cymru: 'Spend less on roads, more on cycling'

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Media captionSafety when cycling is a big worry for many people, research shows

Money needs to be taken away from building roads and used to create safer bike routes if Wales is to boost cycling, a transport charity says.

Sustrans Cymru said if Welsh government plans to increase cycling were to succeed, funding within its transport budget needed to be re-prioritised.

But the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) warned poorer road conditions would be dangerous for all users.

The Welsh government said it was committed to increasing cycling.

It comes as a conference was held looking to get more people using bikes across Wales.

The event in Cardiff focused on the Welsh government's Active Travel Bill, which aims to develop a network of walking and cycling routes around the country.

If it becomes law this autumn, councils would have a legal duty to make it easier for more people to walk and cycle.

But Sustrans, which promotes sustainable transport, said if the legislation was to make a major difference, ministers would need to assess how they spent money within the transport budget.

Matt Hemsley, Sustrans Cymru's policy advisor, said currently just £3.30 was spent per person on cycling in Wales each year - which equates to a total of £15m a year - which was a "tiny fraction of the transport budget".

That compares to £19 a head in the Netherlands, where cycling is extremely popular.

He said the charity would like to see the Welsh government spending up to £50m a year on cycling.

"Holland in the 1970s was a very car-dominated society," he said.

"But they then spent less on the roads and spent more on cycling.

"The Welsh government will have to assess its funding. It's currently spending hundreds of millions of pounds on roads like the Heads of the Valleys road [in south Wales] and the cycling budget is tiny."

He said if people were to be encouraged to get out of their cars and use bikes for shorter journeys a network of safer routes was necessary.

"Cycling isn't going to be for every journey all the time," he added.

"But it's about making it easier for people who might be too worried to cycle at the moment."

Cutting congestion

However, Tim Shallcross, head of policy at the IAM, said it would not be right to "pinch money from one pot and put it in another".

"In Wales we're a spread out community and cycling is not practical for some people, particularly for the young and old.

"Lots of people rely on the roads. There are far more cars on the roads than cyclists and to take money away from them would mean they would not be improved, which would impact on all road users.

"There does need to be more investment to make roads safer for cyclists but that should not be at the expense of the roads themselves."

The conference, called Wales: A Cycling Nation, explored how cycling can benefit the economy, tourism and health and heard from First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The Welsh government said it was committed to supporting increased levels of cycling across Wales.

"This year we are allocating £7.9m to the Regional Transport Consortia for them to implement infrastructure projects across Wales that will make it easier for more people to walk and cycle within their communities," a spokesperson said.

"A further £5m is being allocated to the Safe Routes in Communities initiative. In addition we have allocated £1.8m to promote active travel."

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