Lincolnshire MPs have sought a commitment from Government ministers to continued investment in the county’s cycle network, as well as pushing for a cycling Hub for Skegness and an expansion of the ‘Boris bike’ cycle hire scheme to North Kesteven and East Lindsey.
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips put forward the Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday in a bit to ensure funding for such an alternative method of transport - for business and recreation - is not solely for the benefit of big cities.
Mr Phillips saw it as unfair that London and other big cities were getting greater funding for its cycling facilities provision than the rest of the country.
Referring to Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport Andrew Jones, Mr Phillips said in Wednesday’s debate: “Those of us who make our lives in rural Britain feel that we are constantly short-changed, because the money goes into the urban centres and not into our communities. I want his (Mr Jones’) agreement that it is just not fair that the good folk of Lincolnshire will get £6 a head in this Parliament whereas the no doubt equally good folk of London, Birmingham and all these other places will get £10. It is not on, and it has to stop.”
He said more cycling should be encouraged, to save on fuel in rural areas and sometimes time, as well as doing their bit for the environment.
Mr Phillips said there has been a lot of good work in Lincolnshire and wished to gain the Minister’s assurance that the Government will continue to do what they can to help Lincolnshire and share it as best practice across the country.
He said part of the Lincolnshire County Council’s vision was to create a safe environment for people to enjoy cycling, boosting the local economy and tourism, as well as health benefits.
Mr Phillips said 8,000 cycle training places were delivered each year in Lincolnshire schools, as well as adult cycle training through the Bikeability scheme to overcome safety fears of parents.
Mr Phillips praised Access LN6, now called Access Lincoln, which since 2012, with Government funding, has encouraged businesses, residents and communities in North Hykeham, South Hykeham and Lincoln to travel sustainably. The number of cyclists in the area has doubled. He also referred to the Hirebike, casual bike rental scheme in Lincoln and North Hykeham, with more expansion to come tro include electric bikes as a result of Department for Transport funding. The Government provided £360,000 for a new cycle hub at Lincoln station.
Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman saw the redeveloping of Skegness railway station as an ideal site for a bike hire scheme.
He said: “We could develop an integrated transport hub that would allow the many hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Skegness each year to travel around sustainably and safely and see even more of our lovely county.”
Mr Phillips agreed and suggested taking it even further: “He does not just need one docking station by Skegness station, he needs them all over Skegness. If the Minister is amenable to that proposal and will fund my hon. Friend to get some bikes in Skegness, I would quite like some in Sleaford and some other places in my constituency, and I would like more docking stations in North Hykeham.”
Mr Jones said he knew Matt Warman is already discussing an extension of that scheme to his area with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport Paul Maynard. Mr Jones said the Go Skegness scheme has already started on site.
The £5.7million Go Skegness project aims through improvements to encourage economic growth by alleviating congestion and develop use of sustainable methods of transport such as buses and cycling.
MP for Louth and Horncastle, Victoria Atkins also weighed in, adding the importance of regeneration of areas through cycle networks.
She said: “The Louth canal was, in its heyday, the powerhouse of the midlands engine — even bigger than Grimsby’s port, in its time.”
She welcomed the work of East Lindsey District Council, the Louth Navigation Trust and Sustrans to reopen the route along the canal for cycling, walking and other pursuits.
Under Secretary Andrew Jones accepted that the Government did have to address the “significant regional imbalance” admitting that rural areas’ transport issues are “frequently overlooked”.
He said the spending review in 2015 included £580 million for a new access fund for sustainable transport.
He saw cycle safety as critical and said Bikeability is the Government’s national training programme, which would continue.
On routes to school, Mr Jones said: “We want to encourage children to be able to ride to school; but before that can happen, addressing parents’ natural concerns is fundamental.
“Highways England, which is responsible for the nation’s strategic roads, launched its cycling strategy in January. It outlined plans to provide a safer, integrated, more accessible strategic road network for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. It will invest £100 million in 200 cycling schemes between now and 2021.”
Mr Jones said the Government awarded half a million pounds for sustainable travel in Lincolnshire last year.
He said millions were being given to local infrastructure through the local growth fund to local enterprise partnerships such as Greater Lincolnshire for cycling initiatives.
He saw local authorities as best placed to know where to make improvements and gave assurance that the Government will continue to support cycling financially, through publicity and the sharing of good practice.