What is the recommended path to success?

Road to success

Long term projects are considered the most successful, with a recommended minimum of five years, but an optimal time frame placed at 10 years. Stop-start funding was noted as being ineffective in achieving modal share both because of the incomplete infrastructure and because of the short term funding resulting in some longer term revenue projects not being pursued.

Dedicated teams for a project are considered best practice. Evidence from the Sustainable Travel Towns suggests that teams can take six months to a year to recruit and train in advance of a project, further reinforcing the need for a long term project. These teams are best placed to understand the particular local challenges and come up with more appropriate local solutions and intervention packages.

Focussing on areas that have strong citizen participation and local authority support, along with well-prepared policies, appears to be the most successful. This indicates that project funding should go to areas where there is a desire to see long term difference and would support a well-planned project, further reinforcing the need for longer term projects.

Revenue spend is most successful when coupled with improvements in quality, although this could include newly created facilities rather than simply improving on what is available. This is particularly apparent in Doncaster where failure to improve the bus service due to the issues surrounding its two providers severely hampered the drive for sustainable travel compared to other peer cities. It is also noted that when there is insufficient budget to create a comprehensive network, revenue spending is a good policy to create a culture and attitude ready for cycling when the funding is available.

Making motor transport less attractive is needed for modal shift. A major point in the literature is that while quality improvements and infrastructure are necessary conditions for modal shift, they are not sufficient to induce the modal shift due to the availability of cars. Instead that has to come from other sources with one particularly noted area being the attractiveness of cars. If motor transport is less attractive, modal shift happens. This can be achieved by increasing parking tariffs, reducing availability of free workplace parking, and extending the area of paid on-street parking, thereby reducing the availability of parking but not alleviating congestion.

Value of time is an important consideration, with evidence showing that active travel and bus travel needs to be sufficiently fast compared to private motorised vehicles to encourage modal shift.

Ensuring that cycle lanes have the minimal interruptions makes cycling more attractive, with less stops shown to lead to a higher cycling share. This in combination with improving the perception of cycling both in terms of quality and safety (regardless of the validity of that perception) helps increase modal share.

Successful active travel policy is heavily dependent on external factors such as demographics, land use mix, population density and topography amongst other things. This suggests that there is a justification for different intervention mixes in different cities to overcome these factors.

The range of potential policy packages is very broad, but a typical package could include: the creation of local bicycle statistics/metrics; marketing to improve co-existence of pedestrians and cyclists; route promotion marketing; innovative parking solutions; healthy cycling and walking campaigns; cycle website improvements; and safety strategy improvement. The literature also recommends supportive land use planning as well as restrictions on car use.


Several papers outline the general spend in towns required to achieve cycling uptake. The Sustainable Travel Towns project had an average spend of £19-£29 per head of population per year over a five year period (Urban Transport, 2011), although these funds also include walking and bus spend. A similar project in Scotland (Transport Scotland, 2013) spent between £5-£18 per person per year over three years which included walking and bus spending. The Cycling Demonstration Towns (DfT, 2009) spent around £10 per person per year for the first five years, where other English local authorities were spending roughly £1 per head. The follow up to Cycling Demonstration Towns including the Cycling Cities and Towns Programmes (Sustrans, 2017), was found to cost on average £14 per head of population per year for the five years prior to the report.

Finally, Sustrans estimates that to achieve a doubling of cycling journeys in England there would have to be a spend of roughly £17 per person per year over a 10 year period (Sustrans, 2016). The evidence of cases suggest that a spend per person in the treatment areas ranging between £10-£30 per annum over a decent period of time, between 5-10 years, would be reasonable and in keeping with past successful projects. However, due to the nature of the data it would be unwise to extrapolate a certain spend with a certain effect.