14.In April 2017, and as required by the Infrastructure Act 2015, the Government published a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) for England. This recognised the importance of increasing levels of walking and cycling and set out the Government’s ambition to make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.
15.For walking, the Government said that it aims to reverse the decline in walking, and has set two main targets:
It has also said that it wants to increase the proportion of children aged 5 to 10 that usually walk to school, from 49% in 2014 to 55% by 2025.
16.For cycling, the Government set the following targets:
It also said that it wants to reduce the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on England’s roads.
17.Walking and cycling are essential parts of the solution to tackling physical inactivity, climate change, air pollution and congestion, but for too long walking and cycling have not been given enough attention by 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 first 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 needs to make sure its strategy remains relevant and encourages appropriate action across Whitehall and at all levels of local government. We identify in this Report several actions that the Department can take to achieve this.
18.The CWIS was published in April 2017 and, so far, there is limited data against which to judge the Government’s success delivering its strategy and achieving the targets in it. The Government is required to provide Parliament with reports on progress towards meeting its objectives, but there is no timeframe within which it must do so. The information that is available indicates that the Government will miss its 2025 cycling target by a wide margin. Roger Geffen told us that “current policies will get [the Government] only one third of the way to meet its ambition to double cycling trips by 2025”, something acknowledged by the Department for Transport in November 2018.
19.Since the Department set its targets the methodology for counting walking stages has changed, resulting in increased figures for walking for the period 2002–2015. As a result, the Government’s 2025 target—of having walking activity of 300 stages per person—has been met in 15 of the 16 years between 2002 and 2017. The target is therefore clearly no longer fit for purpose. The then Minister noted it had been two years since the strategy was published, and said he intended to publish an update over the summer.
20.Despite the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy being published more than two years ago, the Government has not provided any significant detail on progress delivering its strategy. We recommend that the Government produces an annual report on delivery of its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. This should set out progress meeting the targets set out in the strategy, an assessment of whether the targets are still fit for purpose or should be revised, and an assessment of what further actions are necessary to meet the Government’s targets. We welcome the then Minister’s statement that he intended to publish an update over the summer and expect this to be published by the end of September 2019 at the latest.
21.The Government’s lack of progress against its target to double the number of cycling stages by 2025 and the fact that its target for walking is no longer fit for purpose raised the question of whether the CWIS needs to be revisited. Our witnesses were overwhelmingly in favour of the Government revisiting the targets set out in the strategy. Rachel White, Senior Policy and Political Adviser at Sustrans, told us that the walking and cycling stakeholder groups agreed that “the strategy needs to be revisited right now”.
22.Our witnesses were clear that the Government’s targets for walking are not ambitious enough, and need to be revised. Susan Claris, a transport planner at consultancy Arup and a Trustee at Living Streets, told us that the Government’s desire to halt the recent decline in walking was “not a cry to get out there and do more”. Joe Irvin, the Chief Executive of Living Streets, agreed, telling us the target for 2025 was “unambitious; it was conservative and cautious in the first place”. We have heard concerns that, all too often, walking is not given the attention it deserves by policy makers and transport planners. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) said that, while cycling “tends to grab the headlines and ministers and media focus”, walking is “infinitely more accessible, more widely undertaken and more important in so many ways”. They called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to spell out more clearly the “overwhelming importance of promoting walking”.
23.The then Minister acknowledged that the walking target was too low, and told us the Government would “like to find a way of increasing it and strengthening the accountability of the system”. He said: “there is no doubt in my mind that that target needs to be raised”. Guy Boulby, Head of Cycling and Walking at the DfT, told us that one challenge in setting the target for walking was that the evidence was less clear about the costs and effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing levels of walking.
24.While the target to double the number of cycling stages by 2025 is more ambitious than the Government’s target for walking, this is from a very low base—Roger Geffen, Policy Director at Cycling UK, told us: “cycle use in the UK is so low compared with continental Europe”. Cycling UK has stated that achieving the Government’s target would only amount to a 74% increase in trips per person outside London. This is because the growth of cycling in London is expected to far outstrip that of most of England—and would be a significant contribution to any increase in cycling across England as a whole—and because the total number of cycling stages will increase naturally as population rises, even if rates of cycling per person do not increase.
25.The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group said that the Government’s target of doubling cycling could be “readily achieved with minimal changes in policy, and local authorities should be asked to go far further”. Cycling UK said that meeting the Government’s target would only increase cycle use to around 3.5% of all trips, and that at this rate of progress England would reach Dutch levels of cycle use—where cycling accounts for 26% of all journeys—shortly before the start of the 23rd century. These calls for more ambitious targets for increasing cycling come at the same time that the Government has acknowledged that it is not on track to meet the target it has already set. The then Minister said that the Government would “have to think very hard about what is required” to meet the 2025 target, and that this would “require major further intervention”.
26.The Government’s commitment to increasing levels of walking and cycling is welcome but its current targets are not ambitious enough, particularly for walking. Despite being the most accessible and widely undertaken form of active travel—and being part of almost every journey—walking is rarely given proper attention by policymakers and planners. It is disappointing the Government’s strategy has not given walking a higher priority. While the Government’s targets for cycling are more ambitious than its targets for walking, England is starting from a very low level of cycling activity, particularly when compared to many countries in continental Europe. 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. We recommend that the Government revise its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy with more ambitious targets for increasing levels of cycling and—particularly—walking. A draft revised strategy should be published alongside the Government’s first report on its progress towards meeting the objectives set out in its strategy, to be consulted upon in the autumn with a view to a final revised strategy being published early in 2020.
27.The CWIS contains an ambition to make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey. The vast majority of journeys—even relatively short ones—are made by private motor vehicle, so to increase levels of walking and cycling people have to be encouraged to choose to travel on foot or by bike instead of taking a car. Every year members of the public are asked in the British Social Attitudes survey whether they agree that many of the journeys of less than 2 miles that they now make by car could just as easily be walked, and in 2017 over 40% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed. More than a third of respondents also agreed that many of these journeys could be made by bicycle. Given that 42% of all journeys are under 2 miles in length, this illustrates the potential for modal shift of journeys that are currently made by car to be made by foot or bicycle.
28.We have been told that simply improving walking and cycling infrastructure is not sufficient to encourage modal shift if driving is a cheaper and more convenient alternative. Several submissions suggest policy interventions which would make driving less attractive, and so encourage modal shift. These include: Clean Air Zones, road pricing, parking restrictions, workplace parking levies, and increases to fuel duty.
29.We have also been told that there is a need to challenge the “dominance of car culture” to reduce traffic in town and city centres. We have received evidence arguing that there needs to be a cultural shift if there is to be significant modal shift from car use to walking and cycling, and active travel modes are seen as safe, normal and attractive. Our evidence suggested that early education and training were key to achieving this cultural change. We have also received a large number of submissions calling for changes to the Highway Code to improve safety for people walking and cycling, and support a change in culture. We note that the DfT is planning to review the Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
30.In our Report on Bus services in England outside London we concluded that modal shift is essential to reduce congestion and tackle air quality issues, and that the Government and local authorities should encourage bus use as an alternative to car use. The same arguments apply to active travel. The Committee on Climate Change has stated that the Government must encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport in preference to car usage wherever possible, including through provision of infrastructure for safe and practical cycling. Their net-zero scenarios assume a 10% transport modal shift.
31.In our buses Report we recommended that the Government set targets for modal shift, to meet the policy outcomes of cleaner air for towns and cities, and bring forward specific actions for how modal shift will be achieved. We see no reason why the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy should not do the same. Indeed, the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy highlights the importance of a shift from car use to these more space-efficient means of travel, and set out a policy of reducing dependency on cars in favour of active, efficient and sustainable modes of travel, with the central aim for 80 per cent of all trips in London to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041.
32.The greatest benefits of increasing levels of walking and cycling—to individual health, the environment and congestion—will only be realised if people choose to walk or cycle instead of driving. There is a compelling case for the Government to set targets and a strategy for achieving modal shift from cars to active travel. We recommend that any revised Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy include targets for getting people to switch from driving to active travel. These targets should be based on the number of journeys made by car, foot or bicycle for journeys of less than 1, 2, 5 and 10 miles. The Government should set modal shift targets for 2025 and 2040, to align with the targets it sets for increasing levels of walking and cycling. These should be at a level that ensures England meets—at the very least—the Committee on Climate Change’s assumption that there will be a 10% transport modal shift by 2050. Local authorities should be encouraged to set local targets for modal shift as part of their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, which we consider in the next Chapter.
33.We have been told that the DfT and senior members of Government have an important role providing leadership and setting targets on active travel, but all too often this leadership is lacking. The Urban Transport Group told us “there is a lack of strong and consistent leadership at a senior level across relevant Government departments”, and Kent County Council told us: “A clear message of support for the development of high standard, joined up cycle infrastructure from central government is needed if active travel levels are to be increased in line with the government’s targets.”
34.The DfT has responsibility for the CWIS, but increasing active travel helps deliver benefits for other departments—improved public health is good for the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), and reducing carbon emissions and pollution from road transport helps the Government meet its environmental and climate change targets, where the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are the leads. A large number of submissions said that there needs to be greater cross-departmental coordination on active travel. NECTAR—a network of transport activists’ roundtables for the North East—said that the DfT, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and DEFRA all had responsibilities—town and country planning, reducing emissions—to which active travel related or could support. It went on to say that “stronger, co-ordinated action by all departments is needed to bring about meaningful change”. Joe Irvin, from Living Streets, highlighted the challenge to the DfT of a lack of buy-in from other Departments, saying:
[…] we are asking the Department for Transport to spend money and the benefits might accrue to another Department. It is particularly frustrating because […] the Department for Transport is very capital-rich and revenue-poor, and health is the reverse. Small amounts put towards improvements in this area, particularly behaviour change activities, would have big pay-backs for health.
PACTS set out the risks of not securing greater buy-in from other Departments, saying: “The DfT is not a powerful department in Whitehall. […] so long as active travel is seen as something that can be delivered by a single discrete plan, such as the CWIS, only marginal change will be delivered at best”.
35.There is already some cross-departmental work in relation to active travel, but our evidence was clear that this could be improved. Sustrans noted that there is an inter-ministerial group on healthy living between the health Minister and the Minister with responsibility for cycling and walking, but while welcoming the intention behind this said: “our understanding is that they have only met once and that no actions or objectives came from the meeting”. We asked the then Minister for walking and cycling, Jesse Norman MP, how he worked with other departments to take forward the CWIS, and he told us:
Ministers and officials at DfT work closely with a range of other government departments to join up active travel and a number of inter-linked strategies and initiatives including the Sports Strategy, Childhood Obesity Plans (parts 1 and 2), NHS Healthy Towns, Physical Education and Sport Premium policy and the emerging Prevention Is Better Than Cure Green Paper.
Mr Norman gave several examples of departments coordinating or working together to join-up policies in the above areas but acknowledged that there was “potential to improve coordination of cross-government interventions, better aligned with local priorities and based on learning from existing initiatives”. He told us that joint working proposals were being considered as part of preparations for the next Spending Review.
36.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. While the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is important, if walking and cycling are to be given the priority they need and deserve it is essential to look at the role of ministers and officials across Government. The benefits of increasing levels of walking and cycling will contribute to the goals of Government across several departments. This needs to be recognised through better cross-departmental working, led by the Department for Transport. We welcome the then Minister’s acknowledgement that there was “potential to improve coordination of cross-government interventions” and expect his successor to fulfil this potential. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Department for Transport set out a plan for improving how the Government champions and provides leadership on active travel, including plans for working with other departments to improve coordination of cross-government interventions by increasing understanding of the contribution active travel can make to their own objectives and how they recognise this in their own plans and strategies, in order to enhance delivery of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
28 Infrastructure Act 2015,
29 Department for Transport, , April 2017
30 Department for Transport, , April 2017, page 9
31 Department for Transport, , April 2017, page 9
32 Infrastructure Act 2015,
34 Department for Transport, , November 2018, para 5.20
35 Living Streets () para 7
36 Department for Transport, , July 2018
39 [Susan Claris], Living Streets (), para 7
42 PACTS ()
47 All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group () para 16
48 Cycling UK () para 12
51 Department for Transport, , July 2018
52 Department for Transport, British social attitudes survey, , July 2018
53 Department for Transport, British social attitudes survey, , July 2018
54 Hertfordshire County Council () para 23
55 Hertfordshire County Council () para 23, Royal Town Planning Institute () para 11, Sustrans () para 52, PACTS () section 8
56 The Ramblers () para 1.9
57 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority () para 4.2, North East Combined Authority () para 10, Living Streets () para 19, Southwark Council () para 15, The Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, The Ramblers and Sustrans () para 5
58 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority () para 2.4, North East Combined Authority () para 9, The Ramblers () para 1.5, Sustrans () para 66
59 The Ramblers () para 1.5, All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group () para 4, Bicycle Association of Great Britain (), Sustrans () para 63, RoadPeace () para 6, The Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, The Ramblers and Sustrans () para 6
60 Department for Transport, , para 1.13
61 , Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, HC 1425, para 67
62 Committee on Climate Change, , May 2019, page 199
63 Mayor of London, , March 2018, page 21
64 Urban Transport Group () para 2.3, Transport for West Midlands () para 28, North East Combined Authority () para 22, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive () section 3, Bicycle Association of Great Britain () section 3, Sustrans () para 27
65 Urban Transport Group () para 5.1
66 Kent County Council ()
67 NECTAR (), Wheels for Wellbeing () para 6, Urban Transport Group () para 2.3, Birmingham City Council () para 20, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority () para 6.1, North East Combined Authority, () para 16, Living Streets () para 3, Southwark Council () para 7, Bicycle Association of Great Britain (), Sustrans () paras 29–30, Campaign for Better Transport () para 10, Transport for London () paras 2.4–2.5
68 NECTAR ()
70 PACTS ()
71 Sustrans () para 30
Published: 23 July 2019