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Moves to boost active travel in Wales

Words: Roger Milne
Cycling / Shutterstock_181277675

The Welsh Government has made moves to boost active travel after a minister admitted to AMs that despite pioneering legislation passed in 2013, ‘we have not seen anything like the increase in walking and cycling levels that we want and need’.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for economy and transport, acknowledged that the performance of local authorities had been mixed. “There are a number of local authorities that have demonstrated a woeful lack of ambition”, he complained.

Water told AMs: “We have developed highly regarded guidance on how to design infrastructure that will make walking and cycling more attractive options, but we need to do more to train and upskill professionals in its use.”

The minister told a plenary session of the Senedd that over £6 million of this year’s £30 million active travel budget would be allocated to councils to invest in improving skill levels and spreading good practice.

“This will allow them to design and plan schemes in advance of submitting full funding bids.”

He added: “We have to concentrate our resources on building routes that will allow people to make whole journeys to places they need to get to, in safety and comfort from their home to work, or school to the shops.

“Only then will we be able to convince significant numbers of people to change their travel habits. I am prepared to take flak for building fewer miles of route in fewer places if the routes we do build enable many more people to become active travellers.

“We will shortly be starting a new round of consultations on local authorities’ plans for their active travel networks, the integrated network maps. I don't want to see random lines on a map that may score high on deliverability but do not create seamless networks that link people up with the places that they want to go.

“So I am setting aside money to fund a much more engaging approach to consultation so that the next iteration of the integrated maps that councils submit are based on the views of our target group – those who do not currently walk and cycle – and result in a pipeline of projects that will make a real impact.”

Waters also highlighted the need for better monitoring of schemes after pointing out that the government was currently funding routes that do not have automatic counters installed.

During the short debate that followed Water’s statement, AMs queued up to stress the importance of meeting the country’s active travel targets now that a climate emergency has been declared.

Jenny Rathbone, the Labour AM for Cardiff Central, said planning departments should ensure that new housing and business developments are not allowed unless accompanied by active travel schemes.

Waters agreed. He pointed out that the publication of the latest edition of Planning Policy Wales has strengthened the planning guidance.

“It'll take some time, I guess, for that to work through, but I think we have made significant progress there,” the minister insisted.

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