The economic, human and environmental costs of inactivity, climate change, air pollution and traffic congestion are huge. Active travel can help combat all of these, and as they become more pressing concerns there is an increasingly compelling case for policymakers to give active travel the attention and funding that it has not historically received.
For too long walking and cycling have not been a priority for policymakers. The 2015 legislation requiring the Government to develop a strategy for these modes should help to change this. We welcome the Government’s commitment, set out in its 2017 Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, to increasing levels of walking and cycling, and its ambition to make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys, or a part of longer journeys.
The Government has a crucial role in championing active travel and providing leadership at a national level. We have been told that this leadership is lacking and have recommended that the Government bring forward plans for improving how it champions and provides leadership on active travel, and how it can better work with other departments to make active travel a priority.
While the Government’s commitment to increasing levels of walking and cycling is welcome, its current targets are not ambitious enough, particularly for walking. Representatives from walking and cycling stakeholder groups told us the Government should revisit its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, and that now is the right time to do so. We agree, and have recommended that the Government revise its Strategy to include more ambitious targets for increasing levels of cycling and—particularly—walking.
We welcome the development of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) as a mechanism for local authorities to take a long-term approach to identifying and delivering interventions to increase levels of cycling and walking, and the support the Department for Transport has provided to help local authorities develop such plans. We were impressed by the level of ambition that several local authorities have shown for increasing levels of walking and cycling in their areas, and these plans should help those authorities identify interventions which will enable them to achieve these ambitions. While we note that the LCWIP programme is a pilot, and the initial support for developing these plans was made available on a competitive basis, we believe that ultimately there should be LCWIPs for the whole of England.
It is disappointing that, having developed guidance for local authorities to create LCWIPs and encouraged them to do so, the Government has not created a clearer mechanism for funding the delivery of these plans. If the delivery of LCWIPs is essential to achieving the Government’s ambitions, then it needs to fund and support both the development and delivery of these plans.
Funding for active travel is too piecemeal and complex, and the Government has not given local authorities the certainty they need to prioritise active travel and make long-term funding commitments. The absence of ring-fenced or dedicated funding for active travel means there is no guarantee that the £2 billion the Government has estimated will be spent on active travel this Parliament will actually be spent on increasing levels of walking and cycling.
This Report 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 LCWIPs—that will increase levels of walking and cycling. Creating a single dedicated fund for active travel will give local authorities the confidence to prioritise active travel, without bids for these funds being in competition with bids for other purposes.
The £2 billion the Government has said will be spent on active travel in this Parliament is welcome, but it equates to only £400 million a year. This is a tiny sum compared with spending on other areas of transport—and is just 1.5% of transport spending in England. The Government needs to invest more in active travel. We recommend that the Government increase funding for active travel in future Spending Review periods. The Department for Transport should propose a long-term funding settlement for active travel, increasing over time. This would give the signals necessary for local authorities to make active travel a priority. For the next Spending Review, the Department for Transport should seek whatever funds are necessary to deliver the targets of a revised and more ambitious Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
Published: 23 July 2019