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 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. Furthermore, a £50 Fix Your Bike Voucher scheme was launched, to help people to bring their bikes out of retirement. It was hugely popular and I am pleased that 150,000 more vouchers were released in March.
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.
Furthermore, 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. I understand that the Department of Transport is already developing a framework to help local authorities monitor and evaluate the schemes that they will be delivering through phase two of the Active Travel Fund.
A consultation was also held on strengthening the Highway Code to enhance protections for cyclists and pedestrians. Among other things, Ministers want to improve the legal protections afforded to vulnerable road users and introduce tougher lorry safety standards.
Implementing new Cycleways: To help tackle the coronavirus, the Active Travel Fund was announced, and provided £225 million of funding for local authorities, enabling them to reallocate road space and make changes to road layouts in response to COVID-19. Alongside the funding, the Department published statutory guidance to local authorities under the Traffic Management Act 2004. This provides advice on the changes that the Government expects them to make to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. It is, however, for local authorities to decide what specific measures are appropriate on their roads to achieve this.
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.
Further measures in the Government’s latest action plan: 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.
Recent Investment in cycling and walking infrastructure: Investment in recent years has also enhanced cycling and walking infrastructure. Indeed, £210 million through the Cycle Ambition Cities programme has delivered 155 miles of new segregated cycle routes, 186 miles of new on-road and off-road routes for cyclists and pedestrians and 136 miles of off-road cycling signage and resurfacing improvements across eight cities. In addition, £22 million has been invested to upgrade 32 routes, covering 103 miles, along the National Cycle Network.
Transforming Cities Fund: Through the Transforming Cities Fund, the Government wants to fund the delivery of radical transport schemes to boost connectivity within cities, including through cycling and walking schemes. Of the £1 billion allocated through the Fund at the 2020 Budget, £800 million will go towards bus and cycling projects, for example an iconic new Central Park Bridge in Plymouth and new cycleways in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. Previous funding allocations included £160 million towards the Beeline Cycle Network in Greater Manchester.
Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans: The Department for Transport has been providing support to 46 local authorities to assist with the preparation of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. Now with the urgent need to increase cycling and walking, local authorities are being encouraged to bring forward permanent schemes already in the pipeline and which can be relatively speedily constructed – this could be under Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. Proposals for schemes in the Calder Valley should certainly be brought to the attention of councillors and the Council itself.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP