Leading article: Cycle of neglect

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is an experience that many pedestrians and cyclists will find wearily familiar: running out of road. You can be strolling or pedalling along, quite content, when suddenly, with no warning or apology, the paving disappears, or the cycle lane ends. You then have an invidious choice: brave the main road, or head back.

Thankfully, some help is arriving. An ambitious scheme to create new cycling and walking routes across the country has won a 50m lottery grant. The charity Sustrans plans to use the money to build bridges, tunnels and crossing paths in 72 towns. Its primary goal will be to benefit those travellers who are not enclosed by a couple of hurtling tons of steel.

Sustrans had some tough competition from the Eden Project and Sherwood Forest, but it was a worthy winner. Building more cycle and walking paths is desirable for a variety of reasons. Encouraging people to walk or cycle is an excellent way to tackle obesity. It should reduce road deaths and make our cities less congestion-clogged. And if enough people use these networks, it should also help bring down carbon emissions.

One quibble, though. Why is such work being left to the charitable sector? European countries with excellent cycling networks such as Finland and The Netherlands do not rely on donations to build them. Why should our Government be allowed to get away with trying to do things on the cheap? For too long, the construction of transport links for non-drivers has been ignored by local authorities and Whitehall. It is time for the non-motoring lobby to make its voice heard.