It’s a number we’ve been hearing a lot recently – the £58 million that the government is spending on cycling. After PoP, after the recent road deaths, after the launch of the ‘Nice Way Code’. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Our manifesto calls for £20 per head to be spent on cycling, or 5% of the transport budget, which amounts to about £100 million a year. So you could argue that £58 million is a fair chunk towards that – more than half.

Well, just hang on a minute.

First, it’s not £58 million a year – it’s £58 million over the current budget period, which is three years. So that’s on average about £19 million a year, or less than a fifth of what we (and every other expert in public health who gave evidence at the budget hearings last year) think is necessary for the government to achieve its target, sorry, shared vision, of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020.

And it gets worse. Because when you break down what that money’s actually being spent on, it turns out it’s not all for cycling after all:

  2012-13 13-14 14-15 total
Sustrans 9.66 11.12 9.36 30.14
Cycling Scotland 2 2.424 1 5.424
CWSS 6.1 5.6 8.2 19.9
Stirling Bike Hub 0.028 0.087 0.085 0.2
Bike Station Edinburgh   0.045   0.045
Transport Scotland   1.6 1 2.6
total 17.788 20.876 19.645 58.309


CWSS stands for ‘Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets’ – so clearly cycling is just a part of what it’s spent on. It’s the money that goes to local authorities to spend in their area and only a proportion of it (around 36% apparently) gets spent on cycling. 36% of £19.9 million is just £7.2 million – or an average of £2.4 million a year. (Similarly, Sustrans isn’t purely about cycling either, although most of its network is used for both cycling and walking). Obviously local authorities could spend more – but most of them don’t spend anything above and beyond match funding for Sustrans projects, which comes out of the CWSS budget. And that’s before we even get into the ‘Nice Way Code‘ – which is coming out of the Cycling Scotland budget, but which is aimed at all road users.

So when the government says ‘we spend £58 million on cycling’, what it really amounts to is about £15 million a year – or just £3 a head. Is that enough? Well don’t take our word for it – here’s what one authority says:

“investment of the order of £5-10 per head per annum could be needed to grow modal share year on year from its current low base in Scotland to the level in CAPS”

Who are these spendthrift radicals? Well that quote is taken from the government’s own Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. So even the government doesn’t believe it’s spending enough…

That £58 million in full