CYCLING AND WALKING
Thank you for contacting me about cycling and walking.
Cycling and walking have a significant role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face. Indeed, an uptake of these greener modes of transport throughout the pandemic has played a great role in the national coronavirus effort, helping to reduce the pressure on public transport, and, in facilitating social distancing, lowering infection rates. I therefore welcome this increased interest in cycling and walking and hope to see these behavioural changes last.
I am very pleased that the Government has committed to the largest ever financial boost for active travel of an additional £2billion in cycling and walking over the next five years. This will deliver transformational change, hopefully encouraging people to maintain their transition to greener, more sustainable modes of transport such as cycling. In the Summer, the Department for Transport also published the 'Gear Change' policy paper, detailing a bold new action plan to boost active travel.
The first stage of this £2 billion investment was a £250 million emergency active travel fund. Through this, the Government supported local authorities to increase the amount of road space provided for cycling, and enabled local authorities to reallocate road space and make changes to road layouts in response to the coronavirus. The Fund delivers new pop-up cycle lanes with protected space for cycling, cycle and bus-only corridors, safer junctions and wider pavements.
While the monitoring and evaluation of schemes, including impact on traffic flows, is a matter for local authorities, I understand that the Department for Transport is currently developing a framework to help local authorities monitor and evaluate the schemes that they will be delivering through tranche two of the Active Travel Fund. Through this, there will be consideration of impacts before and after scheme implementation.
I believe it is important to evaluate the picture in the round. We must show some appreciation for hard pressed motorists who do not have the option of cycling or walking, such as those who have health conditions, have to carry items with them or whose work requires them to use the roads. A balance has to be struck, in my view, between the undeniable benefits cycling and walking bring, in terms of health, climate change and pollution, as well as what they can do to prevent or reduce gridlock. The extent to which measures that support cycling and walking could potentially add to the latter must be not be ignored.
Beyond these measures, there will be a long-term cycling programme and budget, which will ensure a guaranteed funding pipeline. This will usher in thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in our towns and cities and improve the National Cycle Network.
Over 1,000 miles of safe and direct cycling and walking networks are due to be delivered by 2025 with network plans developed and being built out in every town and city in England. Cycle training will be made available for any child or adult who wants it and a new national e-bike programme will be introduced to increase access to e-bikes. I welcome that Cycling UK have already provided information on how cycling can be enjoyed safely.
Higher standards for cycling infrastructure have also been introduced and a new inspectorate, Active Travel England, will ensure these new standards are upheld. The new standards will ensure schemes are better designed around the needs of cyclists and will make sure that schemes support the growing numbers of cyclists.
The Government’s plan to boost active travel also commits to tackling ‘rat-running’ and increasing the number of low-traffic neighbourhoods. The plan also pledges to increase the number of ‘school streets’ to protect children and encourage walking to school. Moreover, Ministers will select up to 12 willing local authority areas to benefit from intensive investment in mini-Holland schemes, and one small or medium-sized city will be chosen to create the country’s first zero-emission transport system. Cycle parking facilities will also be boosted, as will bicycle storage capacity on trains.
The question of whether cycling should be permitted throughout the year on the promenade is one that I know the Council have been considering. In this case, of course, it is not a question of the safety of cyclist in the face of motor vehicles, but of pedestrians in the face of cyclists adding another dimension that requires careful consideration.
Thank you again for contacting me.