Amidst a turbulent week for British politics, the government announced that it will invest £3.78bn in active travel schemes until 2025 as part of its refreshed cycling and walking investment strategy. Trudy Harrison, the minister responsible for active travel, said that the increased funding was part of an “ambitious” strategy to ensure that half of all journeys in towns and cities will be walked or cycled by the end of the decade.
The new document, which was scheduled to be published last year but was delayed due to Covid, covers the period between April 2021 and March 2025 and outlines the government’s strategy to maintain and increase the levels of active travel witnessed during the early stages of the pandemic – including increasing the amount of cycling trips to 1.6 billion during the next three years.
> £1.2bn in funding as Government finally publishes cycling and walking investment strategy
The government’s revised objectives for the next four years, based on the targets of the original 2017 strategy and the Gear Change document, include:
- doubling cycling, where cycling activity is measured as the estimated total number of cycling stages (trips) made each year, from 0.8 billion stages in 2013 to 1.6 billion stages in 2025
- increasing the percentage of short journeys in towns and cities that are walked or cycled from 41 percent in 2019 to 46 percent in 2025
- increasing walking activity to 365 stages per person per year in 2025
- increasing the percentage of children aged five to ten who normally walk to school from 49 percent in 2014 to 55 percent in 2025
Beyond 2025, the government aims to increase the percentage of short journeys in towns and cities that are walked or cycled to 50 percent in 2030 and to 55 percent in 2035, while delivering a “world-class cycling and walking network” in England by 2040.
Funding to achieve these objectives will come from active travel revenue and capital funds, wider Department for Transport programmes, and other central government funds. It will be managed by the newly formed government agency Active Travel England, headed by Chris Boardman, and the DfT.
> Chris Boardman heads newly-launched government body Active Travel England
In the foreword, Harrison said: “In the midst of the pandemic, we saw quieter roads, buses and trains. This was largely to be expected given the necessary public health restrictions in place.
“However, during this time of disruption for much of the transport network, previously unsung forms of travel thrived. Cycling rates increased by 46 percent and a million more people started walking for leisure.
“This active travel renaissance uncovered a pent-up demand for a different way of travelling, particularly for shorter journeys. Quieter roads and less congestion gave many of us the space, confidence and opportunity to get behind the handlebars or put on our walking shoes.
“Now that the economy has reopened and road usage is back to pre-pandemic levels, we cannot afford to lose those active travellers. This second cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS2) reaffirms our commitment to making walking, wheeling and cycling the natural choices for millions more journeys.
“But we now need to step it up a gear. CWIS2 outlines the total investment into active travel across government through to 2025.
“That means, where possible, redesigning towns, cities and neighbourhoods to enable more active short journeys. It means making active travel more inclusive, by removing barriers that make it harder for some to walk, wheel or cycle to their destinations. And it means using the newly created body, Active Travel England, to set high standards for active travel infrastructure, new development design, engagement, training and behaviour change.
“Faced with the rising cost of living and a warming planet, there is a renewed sense of urgency to act, and act fast, in choosing lower cost greener forms of travel. The past two years have shown that active travel is a practical and popular way of getting around for many people, provided the conditions are right. We’ve already made significant progress, but now we must push on.”
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The chief executive of cycling and walking charity Sustrans, Xavier Brice, said: “Sustrans welcomes the Government’s refreshed Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, which shows the urgent need to tackle inequality of access to active forms of travel, and for the first time includes wheeling alongside cycling and walking.
“Achieving the necessary revolution in how we get about is vital for our health, our wallets and our planet, but this won’t happen unless we make it easier for everyone to make this choice now.
“Long-term investment in reliable infrastructure, such as the National Cycle Network, alongside immediately tackling the plague of pavement parking, is critical to improving access to active travel.
“But we must all play our part, and local councils and city regions should embrace opportunities for change, so everyone has the chance to be free from expensive and pollutant car overuse.”
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