Are you interested in non-communicable disease prevention? Education and children’s attainment? Climate change and sustainability? Optimising employee performance? Road safety? Then you’ll be impressed that government now recognises that “cycling and walking should become the natural choice for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey”.
The quote comes from the ministerial foreword to the new Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy for England (CWIS). Credit to the Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, and his minister Robert Goodwill: their foreword reads really well, no pyramids of piffle here. In fact the CWIS is packed with clear statements of policy and proposals for action.
“If we can increase levels of walking and cycling, the benefits are substantial. For people, it means cheaper travel and better health. For businesses, it means increased productivity and increased footfall in shops. And for society as a whole it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places and communities.” This is admirable.
"Realising this ambition will not only take sustained investment in cycling and walking infrastructure but also long-term transport planning and a change in attitudes amongst central Government, local bodies, businesses, communities and individuals." This, critical.
So far, so terrific. But this clarity of purpose and of language is undermined by the proposed levels of investment in the draft CWIS, so out of scale with the stated ambition as to be almost comical. While successful, mature active travel societies such as the Netherlands and Denmark have invested in double figures per capita per annum (pcpa) over decades and even Luxembourg is now doing so, we are invited to believe that the "transformative" travel behaviour change government wants to see in England can be achieved at little more than £1 pcpa.
It cannot, and no serious investment strategy could propose such a thing.
So here’s the point. You have until May 23rd to tell the government that active travel investment has to match the fine words and high ambition. To remind them of the massive benefits of active travel which they themselves list in the CWIS. And to point out that, by the DfT’s own calculations, active travel offers far better returns on investment than almost any motor transport schemes. So investment should be shifted from the £15 billion “biggest roads programme for decades” to where the value is: walking and cycling.
It's brief: we clearly don't need to tell ministers and civil servants how valuable and important walking and cycling are. If it helps you, use our content, but whatever you do please tell the government to take some of the the "I" from roads and cars, and put it into the CWIS. Otherwise those fine words will be just that: fine words.