Spring is in the air, and the sunny weather should make active travel, cycling and walking more attractive than ever.
So it’s timely that the Government’s long-awaited Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) is now out for consultation. The deadline for comment is 11.45pm on Monday 23 May. We’ll be submitting a response and encourage others to do the same.
UPDATE: Read our CWIS response here.
We welcome the headline messages on the social, health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling and the aspiration that “cycling and walking should become the natural choice for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey” with a focus on safety, mobility, and better-designed streets. There are some interesting ideas, including more support for 20mph zones and pilots of electric cycles, as well as familiar initiatives on child cycle training and walking to work.
We’re looking forward to see this approach taken forward in other policies such as Highways England’s forthcoming Accessibility Strategy, and updated design guidance for walking and cycling provision on major roads, building on the Cycle Proofing Working Group.
However the CWIS is short on hard targets – apart from the goal to double cycling activity by 2025 - and even shorter on funds.
As reported in our LEP Watch, funds for local transport that could go on walking and cycling all too often end up on new roads. For example, the CWIS talks about the £12 billion Local Growth Fund. That’s spread over five years to 2020-21 and covers areas such as skills training as well as transport. £7.7 billion has been allocated to date, of which £4 billion has gone towards transport projects: and of that, only c£600 million for cycling and walking. So there remains a major gap between ambition and delivery.
We're not alone in calling for stronger targets: Living Streets are calling for a quantifiable target for walking, with an earmarked budget and bolder policies.
On related policy areas, the Government is failing to take action which will promote cycling and walking.
Air pollution and danger from HGVs remain major challenges to safer walking and cycling.
Air pollution is a national scandal: as part of the Healthy Air Campaign we’re backing ClientEarth’s renewed legal action against the UK Government for failing to take adequate action. With dirty diesel vehicles the main source of NOx pollutants, action is urgently needed at national and local level. We recently responded to Greater Manchester’s consultation on their draft Low-Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan, supporting moves towards a Clean Air Zone.
We’re also fighting the shocking plans by the Department for Transport to allow longer HGVs onto our roads. Last year, seven of the nine cyclist fatalities in London involved lorries: the extra 7ft in length proposed – a coffin length - will make HGVs even more of a danger, directly contradicting the CWIS goal of creating "streets where cyclists and walkers feel they belong, and are safe".
In London, the Mayoral election campaign has seen lots of debate on these topics, with voters clearly demonstrating demand for better support for cycling and walking locally. A straw poll at the launch of Arup’s 'Ideas for London' report saw the idea to improve the walking environment win most support, while the last election hustings of the campaign on 1 May, hosted by the London Cycling Campaign, put travel on two wheels top of the agenda.
To promote sustainable transport, Campaign for Better Transport joined with Green Alliance and other environmental groups to produce the Greener London call for action. This included proposals for an expanded ultra-low emission zone, rejecting major new road building (such as the controversial Silvertown tunnel), instead rolling out more “mini-Holland” schemes and introducing a rush hour ban on unsafe lorries.
May is also National Walking Month, including Walk to School Week. In the first of a series of guest blogs on cycling and walking, Tanya from Living Streets tells us all about the campaign to get more people to Try20 and walk for at least 20 minutes each day. Modern resources like Walkit make it easier to find the best walking routes around towns across the UK. Good walking connections are important for public transport too, as our Fixing the Link project shows.
If the Government is to match its rhetoric with real action, it will need to ensure strategies like these are used across the country. As part of the CWIS consultation, the Department for Transport is holding roadshows over the next couple of weeks, including events in London, Manchester, Newcastle, and Leeds - these are important opportunities for people to get across their views and ideas. The events are free to attend but registration is required.
Launching the CWIS consultation, Ministers write that its delivery "will require persistence, patience and resolution". Clear targets, backed by devolved powers and the funds to deliver them, are vital too.