Active travel: increasing levels of walking and cycling in England Contents

6Local authority powers and sharing good practice

76.The focus of this Report has been on the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. We have looked at the Government’s targets for increasing levels of walking and cycling and scrutinised how it is supporting and funding local authorities to deliver the improvements necessary to achieve the Government’s desired increases in levels of walking and cycling. Over the course of our inquiry, however, we have also been told that the Government can play a stronger role in how local authorities share good practice, and that there is a case for granting new powers to local authorities to better enable them to prioritise active travel in their areas. We consider these issues below.

Infrastructure design and sharing good practice

77.Good infrastructure design—creating safe and appealing routes for pedestrians and cyclists—is essential to making walking and cycling more attractive. We have received several submissions arguing that roads are designed for cars, vans and HGVs with pedestrians and cyclists being an afterthought,145 and that all too often the infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is not of an adequate standard. Phil Jones told us that often the “level and quality of provision that goes in is pretty poor” because local highway and planning authorities do not have the expertise to know what good looks like.146 Kent and Cornwall County Councils told us that there is resistance to new cycle routes because the benefits of increasing active travel are not understood widely enough.147 Kent County Council said that the quality of routes for active travel is “often sacrificed to minimise the perceived impact on car users”.148 Roger Geffen, Policy Director for Cycling UK, told us that the Dutch experience was that making cycling and walking more attractive than driving came down to journey time and convenience. He said:

If you make driving quick and convenient, even if you design a very good cycle-friendly network—as happened in Stevenage, Milton Keynes and some of the other new towns—but you also have a high-capacity road network and plenty of parking space so that driving is convenient, people will choose to drive. It is the balance of convenience that needs to be redressed.149

78.Because our inquiry has focused on the Government’s overall approach to delivering its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy we have not looked in detail at the different interventions that can be successful at increasing levels of walking and cycling, and do not to take a view in this Report on the rights or wrongs of particular interventions. Decisions about infrastructure improvements and road traffic restrictions are rightly made at a local level, supported by guidance from central government and subject to scrutiny by local representatives and the public. During our inquiry we have, however, explored the role the Government does have in supporting local authorities to make the best decisions possible about local infrastructure improvements.

79.We received several submissions raising concerns that active travel is often overlooked in plans for new housing developments, with many such developments being unsuitable for anyone without access to a car.150 Phil Jones, an independent transport planner, told us that “most developments make only very limited provision for cycling and where it is done tends to be poor quality shared use footways with frequent interruptions at side roads”.151 He said that the DfT used to have guidance that “emphasised that developments should aim to minimise the number of car journeys they generate”, but that this has been withdrawn. Several local authorities recognised this problem,152 and Rupert Thacker from Hertfordshire County Council outlined some of the challenges local authorities faced when it came to providing for walking and cycling in new developments:

You can start at the outset in discussions with the developer with a very good set of measures that you would like implemented, but ensuring that they actually end up being put on the ground at the end of the development is quite tricky. There are viability issues around the development. We are not the planning authority, and our members are not necessarily the ones sitting on the planning committees that have to make the decisions about levels of parking provision included in a development.153

80.We asked local authorities how they shared good practice, and were told that the Urban Transport Group has an active travel group for its members that meets regularly and provides a forum for sharing things that are going well and learning from each other’s experiences.154 The Government is also supporting the sharing of good practice as part of its work supporting the development of LCWIPs. The then Minister, Jesse Norman MP, told us that all local authorities have been invited to join an online forum which facilitates peer-to-peer learning.155 Mr Norman told us that all local authorities also have free access to the Propensity to Cycle Tool,156 which is used to identify routes with the greatest future demand for cycling journeys.157

81.As part of our inquiry we visited Manchester to hear from Andy Burnham and Chris Boardman about what they were doing to develop an active travel network across Greater Manchester. We also visited Waltham Forest to see the infrastructure improvements that have been made as part of Transport for London’s (TfL’s) ‘mini-Holland’ scheme. In London and Manchester TfL and Transport for Greater Manchester have prioritised funding for active travel in order to deliver real improvements for pedestrians and cyclists. Political leadership and positive engagement with local authorities is clearly key to the success of these efforts, and we were interested to hear how Chris Boardman had engaged with the leaders of Manchester’s ten councils and secured matched funding for infrastructure improvements.158 We note that TfL has made active travel a priority and achieved significant increases in walking and cycling at the same time that its operational grant from the Government has been cut, and it has not had access to funding streams made available to local authorities outside London.159

82.London and Manchester are positive examples in many regards, but while TfL told us that cycling had increased by 131% since 2000, walking trips have only increased in line with population growth, and the mode share for walking has remained largely static for the past twenty years.160 This underlines the need for walking to be given greater priority, even in areas that have already been successful increasing levels of cycling. We noted above that one of the challenges the Department faced in setting a target for increasing levels of walking was that the evidence was less clear about the costs and effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing levels of walking.161 Kevin Golding-Williams, Head of Cycling and Walking Policy at the DfT, told us that the Department was commissioning further research in this area and that they were developing an evidence base for taking the CWIS forward.162 Mr Golding-Williams said that for walking, “it is much more around the behaviour change side, and using nudge techniques to try to encourage behaviours at key life stages”, rather than building new infrastructure.163

83.While making sure that there is adequate infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is essential to increasing levels of walking and cycling, there is the potential for conflict if infrastructure is poorly designed—especially where pedestrians and cyclists are expected to share space. Several submissions highlighted the potential for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists if there are not safe and segregated pedestrian and cycle routes.164 A particular issue raised in our written evidence and at our public engagement session in Manchester is the need to ensure that improving walking and cycling infrastructure does not come at the cost of people with physical or mental impairments. We have received evidence of the particular difficulties people with visual impairments can experience navigating cycle routes.165 While these issues were acknowledged by the representatives of walking and cycling stakeholder groups we spoke to, Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of Living Streets, told us that “In the vast majority of cases, what is good for cycling is good for walking.”166 Roger Geffen, Policy Director at from Cycling UK, told us:

If pedestrians and cyclists are being put in conflict, that is a bad cycle facility. It is bad for both groups. We do not want to be put in tension with one another.167

The Government and individual local authorities need to carefully consider how local infrastructure meets the needs of all road users, and that infrastructure improvements for some groups do not have unintended and adverse consequences for disabled people.

84.The Department for Transport has acknowledged that it has a role in providing a national framework, including good practice guidance, to support local authorities formulate plans that are appropriate to local needs.168 The Government produces guidance on cycle infrastructure design, and equivalent guidance for pedestrian infrastructure is wrapped up into the Department’s Inclusive mobility guidance, on making transport accessible for passengers and pedestrians.169 The Government has said that it is undertaking work to update design guidance for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.170

85.We welcome the current sharing of good practice that takes place between local authorities, and the new online forum the Department for Transport has developed to facilitate peer-to-peer learning. We also welcome the work being undertaken to update guidance for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. However, there are a number of areas where we feel that the Department can improve guidance and better enable the sharing of best practice. We recommend that, as soon as possible, the Department for Transport review its existing suite of infrastructure design and planning guidance for local authorities, and how it supports the sharing of good practice, to ensure that local authorities are not unnecessarily inhibited from making the changes they need to in order to deliver their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. This review should cover:

Local authority powers

86.A small number of local authorities have called for additional powers to enable them to prioritise and increase levels of active travel. Various local authorities have called for:

We have not looked in detail at the case for giving local authorities increased powers in the above areas, but we and previous Transport Committees have recommended on three occasions that Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 be implemented to decriminalise moving traffic offences.174 The Government has yet to provide a satisfactory reason for failing to do so.

87.While building better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is vital to increasing levels of walking and cycling, the Government could also provide local authorities with powers to better enable them to give walking and cycling priority over other modes of transport. We recommend that the Department for Transport consult with local authorities on what additional powers might help them implement Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. We also reiterate the recommendation, made most recently in our May 2019 Report on Bus Services in England outside London that the Government implement Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to decriminalise moving traffic offences so that they can be enforced by local transport authorities.

145 For example: Kent County Council (ATR0030), Integrated Transport Planning Ltd (ATR0038)

147 Kent County Council (ATR0030), Cornwall Council (ATR0041)

148 Kent County Council (ATR0030)

150 Urban Transport Group (ATR0042) para 10.1, Transport for West Midlands (ATR0058) para 36, North East Combined Authority (ATR0059) para 43, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (ATR0064) section 9, Sustrans (ATR0072) para 33, Campaign for Better Transport (ATR0087) para 35, Phil Jones Associates (ATR0099) section 3, Dr Roland Graham (ATR0137) para 7.1

151 Phil Jones Associates (ATR0099) section 3

152 Urban Transport Group (ATR0042) para 10.1, Transport for West Midlands (ATR0058) para 36, North East Combined Authority (ATR0059) para 43

154 Q262 [Dr Ben Still]

156 This is available here:

159 Transport for London (ATR0098), paras 3.15, 6.2 and 7.2

160 Transport for London (ATR0098), paras 3.2 and 3.7

164 NECTAR (ATR0029), Hertfordshire County Council (ATR0037) para 21, North East Combined Authority (ATR0059) para 10, The Ramblers (ATR0065) para 6.5, Guide Dogs (ATR0077) section 4, Canal & River Trust (ATR0078), Dr Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster (DMGT) (ATR0096), Mrs Elizabeth Trethewey (ATR0120), National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK) (ATR00125), Dr Roland Graham (ATR0137) para 8.1, Eastbourne Borough Council (ATR0140)

165 Guide Dogs (ATR0077) section 4, Ellen Watson (ATR0103), National Federation of the Blind of the UK (ATR0125)

169 Department for Transport, Making transport accessible for passengers and pedestrians, December 2005

170 Department for Transport (ATR0034)

171 Urban Transport Group (ATR0042)

174 Out of the jam: reducing congestion on our roads, Ninth Report of Session 2010–12, HC 872, paragraph 16, Road traffic law enforcement, Second Report of Session 2015–16, HC 518, paragraph 99, Bus services in England outside London, Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, HC 1425, paragraph 81

Published: 23 July 2019