WREXHAM Council will have to spend at least £10,000 next year on helping people to get on their bikes.

Councils across Wales have been told by the Welsh Assembly Government they must spend five per cent of their road maintenance grant on maintaining cycleways from April.

The ruling has been applauded by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which has been calling for such a move for the past two years.

It has also been welcomed by Wrexham Council’s environment and transport lead member, Cllr David Bithell.

Sustrans says it has been urging Wales’ highways authorities to think about the needs of pedestrians and cyclists with the same commitment they give to providing for cars.

The new five per cent commitment amounts to around £10,000 per local authority for maintaining on-road cycle routes.

Lee Waters, Sustrans’ Cymru director, said: “It is a modest start but sets an important precedent.

“As a direct result of Sustrans’ work over the last two years, supported by other organisations in Wales, local authorities now have a financial incentive to maintain cycle paths in the same way, if not on the same scale, as they do for roads.

“Currently the commitment only extends to on-road cycle routes, now we need to see the same apply to creating and maintaining traffic-free routes.”

He added: “If we want to encourage people to lead more active lives then we need to make walking and cycling more attractive alternatives to the car for short journeys.

“This is an important small step in that direction.”

Cllr Bithel said: “We support this move as encouraging sustainable travel and supporting moves to reduce carbon emissions is one of the council’s priorities.”

Establishing the right conditions for people to travel in more active, healthy ways is particularly relevant as the Welsh Assembly Government launched its Creating an Active Wales strategy last month, setting targets to increase the physical activity of people across the country by 2020.