Emergency measures to improve active travel are “hugely popular with the silent majority” according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. He has however warned councils who have “abused” the cash that they may receive no further funding.
In an effort to encourage more people to walk and cycle, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £225m Emergency Active Travel Fund in May.
Writing in the foreword to new guidance associated with that funding, Shapps said: “The government … expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.”
Only around 20 per cent of the fund has so far been allocated and it appears the Government has been unimpressed with much that has been produced.
Writing in the Telegraph this week, Shapps threatened to withhold cash that has yet to be formally allocated.
“Where some councils have abused the cash, my message is clear: speak to local residents, get it fixed or no more cash,” he says.
Shapps does however believe that many people – not just cyclists – have benefited from measures to tackle rat-running drivers, reduce danger around schools and make walking and cycling easier.
“These measures sometimes cause noisy opposition, but surveys show they are hugely popular with the silent majority,” he writes.
“But as you’d expect with things which are trials, not everything has worked. That’s why they’re trials – so they can be changed.”
Providing examples, he says: “Some councils have introduced random one-way systems, which don’t seem to offer many benefits to anyone.
“Some of those plastic barriers that have gone up in town centres to widen the pavements can actually prevent pedestrians, including disabled people, crossing the road. They narrow the carriageway for traffic, causing congestion and increasing danger for cyclists. They reduce parking for essential visits to the pharmacy or dentist or doctor. And they don’t seem to be much used by pedestrians either. So a number of them will be coming out soon.”
Flagging another significant change, he adds: “We’re also telling councils that now the height of the emergency has passed, there’s time to consult people more.”