Cycle-friendly councils cash in

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The Independent Online
Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, warned local authorities that they must implement cycle-friendly traffic schemes or face losing grants.

Speaking at a conference in London on creating safe routes for schoolchildren to walk or cycle to school, Sir George said that local authorities were recently issued with guidance which specified that they had to consider the needs of cyclists and pedestrians when drawing up grant applications. Grant applications from local authorities which failed to do so meant the authority "would be less likely to get the resources they want for their transport strategy".

Sir George told delegates that the Government supported the initiative of Sustrans, the organisation which is building the national cycle network with pounds 43m of Millennium Commission funding, to also create "safe routes to school".

He said that two local authorities, Warwickshire and Waltham Forest in north-east London have already been given grants to facilitate children cycling to school.

The idea behind "safe routes to school" is to create cycle routes on the main routes to schools to ensure that pupils can travel to school on their bikes. This would not only be beneficial for children because it is healthy exercise, but will also reduce traffic on the roads. Sir George said that 16 per cent of car journeys during the morning peak are children being accompanied to school. Reducing these journeys would have big impact on pollution and congestion.

While such ideas as safe routes to school used to be put forward only by radical transport planners and were rejected by the Government, ministers have now become accepted practice and most of the 350 delegates at the conference were from councils keen to carry out the work.

However, one speaker complained to Sir George that restrictive regulations put out by the Department of Transport prevented many schemes from being implemented.

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