Massive boost for cycling in the countryside

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A HUGE cash injection has been announced to promote cycling in the South Downs National Park.

The South Downs National Park Authority will share a slice of £17m of government funding to create new and safe cycle routes.

GOOD NEWS The Transport Minister Simon Burns, centre and inset on a bike, at Petersfield railway station. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132238-6367)

GOOD NEWS The Transport Minister Simon Burns, centre and inset on a bike, at Petersfield railway station. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132238-6367)

More than £5m will be invested towards its vision for a network of cycling routes into and around the South Downs.

Transport Minister Simon Burns visited Petersfield railway station today to announce the plans.

He told The News: ‘It ensures there will be just over £5m that will be spent on increasing, enhancing and developing the cycle paths and access within the National Park – which will encourage more people to travel greater lengths continuously for shorter journeys.

‘Cycling is an important way of people keeping healthy.

‘It’s shown in health outcomes that 38 per cent less death rates for those people who cycle.

‘We are also doing it for the environment because it reduces carbon emissions, as well as, we believe it is right to get more people to use cycling as a form of transport rather than automatically getting into a car and driving there – particularly for short journeys.’

Funding from the Department for Transport is £3.81m – with additional funding from local authorities and other groups taking the total funding for the project to £5.1m.

One of the key aims is to improve cycle routes from railway stations.

The money will also allow the completion of the Shipwright’s Way, a 60-mile cycle and walking path linking Portsmouth with Queen Elizabeth Country Park and further north into Alice Holt Forest.

A missing section of the route in the Bordon area will be completed thanks to the cash injection.

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, added: ‘This is a great success for the South Downs National Park and for all those who love to walk or cycle through it.

‘The South Downs is England’s most visited and most densely populated National Park and this investment is designed to provide a high quality cycling experience for cyclists of all abilities, and to complement and give access to the existing network of advisory and off-road routes.

‘The National Park Authority has many plans to create new and safer routes, both for commuters and for people cycling for pleasure.

‘Now we have the money to put those plans into practice. We will be working closely with the local highways authorities and other organisations to take full advantage of this major new funding.’

The Prime Minister’s announcement today means a total of £77m will be divided between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich.

Also, the New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor areas will each share a slice of £17m funding for national parks. With local contributions, the total new funding for cycling is £148 million between now and 2015.

The announcement includes a commitment from the government to cut red tape that can stifle cycle-friendly road design and to encourage changes to the way roads are built or altered.