Birmingham FOE was mainly delighted that the People’s £50 Million Lottery was won in December by Sustrans for their ‘Connect2’ project – “to invest in walking and cycling UK-wide”.
Only ‘mainly,’ because the other bids were equally valuable, and many of us are unimpressed that such worthwhile projects should be made to compete for Lottery funding when transport investment such as road widening and airport expansion is government-backed.
The Black Country Urban Park bid was particularly inspiring and its campaign fought hard by the local Wildlife Trusts and Advantage West Midlands (regional development agency). It tackled a neglected part of our region and focused on improving local greenspace, protecting its biodiversity and making it more accessible to the area’s population.
On the other hand, the Sustrans bid had the advantage of being the only bid that was genuinely national in its scope. In encouraging walking and cycling, Connect2 tackles obesity, climate change, congestion, road deaths, and more. The website says: “Connect2 will revitalise walking and cycling in 79 communities across the UK by creating new routes for the journeys we all make every day. Crossings and bridges will be created over busy roads, railway lines and rivers, linking into new networks of local paths to get you to where you want to go…”
Work has now started, with local authorities contributing extra funding towards the new cycle networks.
Some cyclists dismiss Sustrans’ work on the grounds that many (self included), would rather defend their right to be on the road than be put out of cars’ way on a cycle path. However, particularly in less green communities, many people need to build up confidence to use their feet and bicycles at all. Once they have built this confidence, they will start to use the roads more, leading to a critical mass of cyclists* and sparking bigger behavioural changes. So Sustrans’ paths have their place. As cycle campaigners, we need to ensure that Connect2’s brilliant contribution to the availability of these paths is not seen by drivers, government or spectacularly daft judges (as in the Daniel Cadden case) as the forfeiting of our road rights.
*Speaking of which, don’t miss “Critical Mass” bike rides on the first Friday of each month, 6pm from St Philips Square: an unorganised coincidence of cyclists raising the profile of cycling.
Further information can be found at: http://www.sustransconnect2.org.uk/