NYC Spend on Active Travel

Whitby : Cycling

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) highlighted the poor funding for active travel across England. Spend per head of population in London was around £24/head/yr, whereas was £10/head/yr in the rest of England. It also revealed that “for every £1 spent on active travel infrastructure, there is an average return on investment of £5.62, compared to just £2.50 for roads”. A compelling case for investing in providing facilities for walkers and cyclists.

An FOI on North Yorkshire Council reveals that the situation in our county is far worse than the England average.

RoadsActive Travel
YearRevenue (£)Capital (£)Total (£)Total / head (£)Revenue (£)Capital (£)Total (£)Total / head (£)

* = estimated total for 2023-2024

We will ignore the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 years for now, since there would have been an amount of spend by borough councils during those years (e.g Scarborough borough would have spent around £0.3m capital near Whitby 2020-2021, £0.49m capital near Scarborough 2022-2023). Focussing on the sole year of the NYC unitary (2023-2024), we have a total spend on Active Travel of £1.7m for 630000 residents. That is an investment per head of just £2.69/head/yr. In 2022-2023 this was £4.91/head/yr (plus anything from borough councils), and in 2021-2022 it was £2.28/head/yr (plus anything from borough councils). For all three of the requested financial years, NYC is significantly below the average for England (and that is after removing London from that average).

It should also be noted that the majority of this is listed as “footway maintenance”. That is, the majority of work being undertaken is typically just maintaining existing paths rather than developing new paths. We do not have a “network” of paths, and so the development of new paths is essential to be able to overcome the significant barriers to achieving any form of “modal shift”.

Focussing on the Whitby district, the only significant spend over the last 10 years has been the £0.3M for the Cinder Track upgrades in 2021, which had little impact on levels of active travel uptake. If we average that spend over the last 10 years that works out at just £1.20/head/yr.

Bear in mind that, of the funds that have been received by NYC in recent years for developing new infrastructure, these have typically been for projects in the Harrogate area and have delivered very little. We have to question the basic commitment of NYC to active travel. Only time will tell if a new mayor will make any difference to these appalling numbers. Seems like if there is a “war”, it is on the pedestrian and cyclist.

We call on North Yorkshire Council to

  1. Publish on its website clear numbers of spend on each mode of transport for each financial year, so that its relative commitment to different modes of transport can be seen transparently.
  2. Give the NYC Public Health department a far greater say in direction of spending on transport schemes, given that that there is a significant health and well-being issue in this county (particularly in coastal communities), and NYC Public Health are very aware of the health benefits of active travel.
  3. Whilst this will be dependent on national government policy and the direction of the mayor, aim to increase its investment into active travel capital schemes substantially across the whole of the county, aiming for the IPPR recommendation of £35/head year on year. Only with a commitment of this type will any noticeable impact be made on the underlying health problems in the population, as well as achieving its own climate commitments.
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