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MPs criticise lack of progress made on walking and cycling strategy

Words: Laura Edgar
Cycling and walking / iStock-157507569

The Transport Select Committee says increased funding and more ambitious targets are required to promote the government’s walking and cycling policy for England.

The government published its Cycling and Walking Strategy more than two years ago but, says the committee, the government has not provided any significant detail on its progress in delivering it.

Therefore the committee recommends that the government should produce an annual report on the delivery of the strategy, setting out what progress has been made to meet its targets; to assess whether those targets are still fit for purpose or should be revised; and to decide what further actions are necessary to meet its targets.

The transport minister has said he intends to publish an update over the summer; the committee expects this to be published by the end of September.

Furthermore, the committee suggests that the government should revise its Cycling and Walking Strategy to include more ambitious targets for increasing levels of “cycling and – particularly – walking”. A draft revised strategy should be published alongside the government’s first report on its progress. It should be consulted on in the autumn and publish findings in early 2020.

In June, former Prime Minister Theresa May committed the UK to eradicating its net contribution to climate change by 2050, while the Committee on Climate Change has said more cycling and walking and less reliance on cars could help the UK to meet its own and global climate goals. The report urges the government to act on this by giving active travel the priority it deserves.

The report also says:

  • Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIP) appear to be the main vehicle through which the strategy will be delivered. The government should assess how successful the LCWIP pilot has been in helping local authorities develop plans that will ensure the government’s strategy is delivered. If LCWIPs have helped local authorities prioritise active travel and develop plans for increasing walking and cycling at a local level, in a way that represents good value for money, then the government should be clear that it expects all local authorities to develop these plans, and should commit to providing technical support to help all English local authorities develop their LCWIPs.
  • Funding for active travel is “piecemeal and complex”, and the government has not given local authorities the certainty needed to provide active travel and make long-term funding commitments. The committee recommends that the government bring together the funding it expects to be invested in active travel into a dedicated funding stream for local authorities to deliver improvements, such as those set out in LCWIP. This new funding stream should make money available for resource as well as capital spending to both develop and maximise the benefits of infrastructure improvements.

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, highlighted that road transport is the “single biggest contributor” to poor air quality and is responsible for 80 per cent of roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration. Walking and cycling is good for people's health, saves on the cost of healthcare, can reduce congestion, and improve productivity.  

“There is no battle here – except for hearts and minds. In England, the vast majority of journeys over a mile are made in a car or van. Even for distances of one to two miles, more than 60 per cent of journeys were made by a motor vehicle and fewer than 2 per cent of journeys are made by bike.

“The government must stand up for active travel. It must show real leadership by setting ambitious targets for cycling and especially walking. It must give local authorities the support and funding they need to engage the public and make active travel a priority in their areas. It must do whatever is necessary to persuade more people to get on their bike, or ‘Shanks’ pony’.”

The report can be found here on the UK Government website.

Image credit | iStock