Cycling and walking routes: Some councils 'not interested' in cash

By David Deans
BBC Wales political reporter

Image caption,
Lee Waters says some councils are not interested in bidding for active travel money

Some councils are not interested in bidding for money for new walking and cycling routes, a Welsh government minister has claimed.

Lee Waters spoke as the Welsh government announced which authorities would get cash for projects this year from a pot of about £50m.

Councils have to apply for most of the money.

Mr Waters said the climate change emergency meant local authorities "have to take action now".

The deputy minister for climate change did not say to which authorities he was referring.

Every council in Wales receives a "core allocation" of at least £500,000 from the annual Active Travel Fund.

Mr Waters spoke at Pedal Power in Cardiff - a cycling charity which has received money from the Welsh government, including to expand its e-bike scheme.

Image caption,
Jacqui McQuillan: "The ones that they have got here are brilliant, but there are so many areas where we don't have paths at all"

Jacqui McQuillan, who lives in Cardiff and goes to Pedal Power every week, is among those who have been hiring e-bikes from the charity, which she said have been "life changing".

She said she would like to see more bike lanes on roads that are frightening to ride on.

"The ones that they have got here are brilliant, but there are so many areas where we don't have paths at all, or we have ones that stop suddenly, and what happens at the end of that?"

Councils were also invited to apply for up to four main schemes, or packages of schemes - a total of 33 such schemes have been given money. Money is also being awarded under the safe routes in communities scheme.

Winning bidders include the Cardiff Cycle Superhighways scheme, which will get £6.3m for continuing stage one, which is currently under construction in the Cathays area of the city.

Image caption,
Cardiff has seen some bike lane schemes already established

A total of £3.4m will be provided for improvements to traffic-free shared use paths between Bridgend and Pencoed.

Cash was approved for almost £6m worth of schemes in Swansea, including 2.8km of off-road path between Penllergaer and Gorseinon, and £1.8m for a 2.8km route from Penllergaer to Fforest-Fach.

Some councils are not receiving cash beyond their core allocations, including Wrexham, Neath Port Talbot, Gwynedd, Denbighshire and Caerphilly.

'Some counties don't put bids in'

Mr Waters said: "The truth is, some counties are more interested in this agenda than others.

"Some counties don't put bids in. Others, like Cardiff, put enormous bids in - and there is an unevenness.

"I'm quite happy to fund ambitious councils like Cardiff who want to do the right thing and put infrastructure in. I can't worry too much if another council does not put another bid in, in the short term.

"One of the conversations I'm having with councils is, 'How do we help them overcome the barriers they have?' "

He said authorities were "really struggling" to recruit people with specialist active travel engineering skills.

"Some councillors aren't putting bids in because they can't get the staff to put the bids in and to build the schemes.

"Others aren't putting it in, because frankly they are not interested.

"That needs to change, and it needs to be challenged both by the Welsh government, and also by local people."

He said councils have been declaring climate change emergencies. "The hard bit is to follow through with tangible action".

Cardiff has already seen investment in different schemes to make space for bicycles on existing roads - including so-called "pop-up" routes where bollards are used in lieu of more permanent infrastructure.