Could Suffolk get big boost for cycling and walking?

New cycle barriers have been placed around Ipswich

The Department of Transport is understood to have been impressed by the measures Suffolk has introduced to encourage cycling and walking in Ipswich and other towns. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Officials and councillors in Suffolk are waiting to hear if the county will get any and new money from the Department of Transport to boost cycling and walking after a new £338m national package to boost "active travel" was unveiled.

It will include upgrades to roads and paths, changes to the Highway Code - and require a new emphasis to be put on active travel when changes to the road network are planned.

The new national programme was unveiled by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps after last year saw cycling rise more than in the previous 20 years put together, with the number of miles cycled on British roads rising by 45.7% to 5bn.  

Independent opinion polling and new research also published by the DfT shows that active travel schemes are supported, on average, by a ratio of two-to-one. 

The department has not told any highways authorities, like Suffolk County Council, what they can expect individually from this programme yet - but officials are hopeful that this area should get a generous settlement.

The indications they have had from the government is that the changes that have been made to roads in Ipswich and other Suffolk towns to encourage cycling and walking have gone down well in Whitehall - so the county could expect a reasonable settlement.

But at present the official line is cautious. A spokesman for the council said: “This funding could greatly benefit our active travel initiatives across the county. We look forward to receiving more information about how the funds will be distributed.”

Making the national announcement, Mr Shapps said: “Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment.

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"As we build back greener from the pandemic, we’re determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.  

“This £338m package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener.” 

This funding will help see the construction of hundreds of miles of new  cycle lanes and new schemes to encourage walking. This will include improvements across the National Cycle Network. And a new version of The Highway Code will be published in the autumn.