The County Council’s commitment to active, sustainable travel remains as strong as ever despite a disappointing allocation in the first phase of bidding for money from the Government’s emergency active travel fund to support walking and cycling as part of the national recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
North Yorkshire has been allocated £133,000, half of the possible maximum available, to finance the continuation of the social distancing measures it has been putting in place in the county’s towns to support reopening businesses and to help the public to stay safe in town centres.
The authority is already planning its bid for the second phase, when the larger sum of approximately £1.1m will be available, and is pushing ahead with proposals for multi-million pound bids through other channels to support walking and cycling. The money being allocated through the emergency active travel fund is just the first phase of a £2bn five-year sustainable travel package announced by the Government.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said:
We have a long-standing commitment to active, sustainable travel, and that remains undimmed. The allocation from this first tranche of funding is disappointing, but we will learn from this bid and are determined to take full advantage of the next phase of funding and beyond.
Initial feedback from the Department for Transport indicates that the drive behind this first tranche of the fund is to enable people travelling on public transport, particularly those going to and from work, to instead cycle or walk. This is primarily an issue for large urban areas which have much higher levels of this sort of public transport usage, while North Yorkshire residents are generally less frequent users of buses and trains than those of other authorities because of the sparsity of our population. Presently, our main impetus is creating town centre spaces to enable social distancing.
We await guidance on the requirements for the second phase, which is likely to see an emphasis on schemes identified through our local walking and cycling infrastructure plans, which will be more permanent measures.
In the meantime, we remain committed to maintaining and adapting as necessary the social distancing measures we have put in to facilitate safe active travel for the benefit of all businesses and road users.
The County Council is also looking to the future by proposing a package of about £75m of improvements to cycling and walking facilities in Harrogate, Scarborough and Selby as part of Transport for the North’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan that it will be taking to the Government.
Through the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership, the council has also submitted a bid to Government that includes a £3.3m for maintenance and upgrading of town centre footways in key economic centres.
These follow the County Council’s leading role in the successful bid for £31m of funding from the Transforming Cities Fund to be used to upgrade transport gateways and cycling and walking infrastructure in Harrogate, Selby and Skipton.
Cllr Mackenzie said:
We will pursue any and all opportunities to secure funding to enhance the options available for North Yorkshire residents to use safe, efficient and well connected walking and cycling infrastructure and facilities.
We understand and share the enthusiasm shown by many residents across the county for sustainable, active travel.