THe Capital’s road repair budget is set to be cut by £1 million in order to keep the city’s pledge to invest in cycling.
The move means that around 21,000 fewer potholes would be repaired in the coming year and extra miles of cycle paths and more bike storage facilities created instead.
The city has pledged to spend seven per cent of its transport budget on cycling next year, but the state of the Capital’s potholed roads has prompted widespread criticism.
With pothole repairs costing on average £50, the £1.05m which would be moved from the city’s road repair budget would pay for around 21,000 of them to be fixed.
The step has delighted the city’s cycling lobby, but has come in for fierce criticism from motoring organisations and some councillors.
The city’s spending on road repairs is now set to be less than half next year than in the current year, as record spending in the current year comes to an end.
Transport committee member Councillor Bill Henderson, who worked in roads planning with British Telecom for more than 30 years, believes the boost to cycling should not come at the expense of deteriorating roads.
He said: “I don’t see why any of the money from roads or street lighting should be allocated to cycling. Most cyclists that I talk to want the potholes fixed. So why are we taking £1m that is specifically assigned to roads when really the benefits are usually given to all road users and almost all modes of transport – car, bus, bike, even pedestrians?”
The budget for repairing Edinburgh’s roads was doubled to a record £25.9m this financial year, in an effort to tackle the alarming backlog of badly potholed streets.
That allocation will now be trimmed back to £15m in each of the next two years if draft budget plans are approved. The £1.05m cut linked to cycling would further hurt the road maintenance programme.
Neil Greig, spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, agreed extra money was needed for cycling, but said the council should halt this way of achieving its green goals.
He said: “To fix the potholes we need guaranteed long-term funding. One good year, one bad year is what’s caused the problem so far. Cutting road maintenance to fund cycling is very short-sighted. It’ll cost them more in the long run.”
Mr Greig added: “Over 90 per cent of journeys are still made by car as a passenger or driver. You have to invest in the mode of transport people use.”
The funding decisions come despite transport bosses changing Edinburgh’s maintenance priority system, meaning more money will be spent on fixing smaller city centre roads and side streets.
Last night Green transport spokesman Cllr Nigel Bagshaw defended switching money to cycling projects. He said: “We have a commitment to increase the cycling budget and it’s only right that that’s what the council is doing.
“We do have a finite budget, so it has to come from somewhere. A lot of money has been spent on the roads to make up for a long-term backlog, but I don’t have a problem with the cycling budget coming up.”
Ian Maxwell, from cycling campaign group Spokes, said he would discuss the matter with city officials at a forum next Wednesday.
City cycling spokesman Cllr Jim Orr said the aim of the budget was to make cycling as “safe and accessible” as possible and to meet the ambitious 15 per cent journeys’ target.
In April, we revealed transport expert Professor Iain Docherty, from the University of Glasgow, said potholes, cracked pavements and cycling facilities were being overlooked in the Capital at the expense of large infrastructure projects.