Yesterday the Department for Transport launched its Active Travel Strategy (along with the Department of Health – under the Change4Life ‘brand’). The 64 page document is full of good stuff – current activities and future aims.
Though the CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen has already said: “The Active Travel Strategy is a supportive statement of warm words about cycling. Unfortunately, it cannot deliver the massive step-change in cycle use that it recommends alone. CTC wants government departments to tell us what they are going to do and spend to make this happen. To tackle obesity, climate change and congested roads we need more than a homily to the humble bike; we need an action plan with pound signs attached.” (Press release)
Generally DfT proposals like this don’t apply to Scotland, so it’s good to see the following –
1.16 Although this is a strategy for England, we are working closely with the devolved administrations to ensure that we can share best practice and promote measures that support our shared objectives.
Below are some other edited highlights.
Our vision for active travel
1.1 Cycling and walking are great for health and accessibility, and when replacing journeys by car they can also reduce congestion and emissions. We want to see more people cycling and walking more often and more safely. With about two-thirds of the journeys we make under five miles, we believe walking and cycling should be an everyday way of getting around.
1.2 We have, however, amongst the lowest levels of cycling and walking in Europe. We need to turn that around, so that we can reap the benefits which other countries have achieved through active travel for individuals, business and the wider economy.
The National Cycle Plan: the Decade of Cycling
So why is the Netherlands so different from England?
1.12 Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the weather – annual rainfall in Amsterdam is higher than it is in Manchester, and it’s colder in winter. The answer is more that central and local government in the Netherlands have consistently integrated cycling into transport and planning decisions for decades to create an environment and culture where cycling is the natural choice for many journeys.
1.13 For decades, like the UK, cycling levels in the Netherlands were declining as car use grew. In response to the oil crises of the 1970s, amongst other things, the Netherlands took a conscious decision to develop planning and transport policies that favoured cycling over the car. Since then cycling has remained at the heart of planning and transport policies.
1.14 The Netherlands is not, however, an isolated example. Around the world, major cities are waking up to the potential of walking and cycling. In Copenhagen 36% of trips to work or school are cycled and by 2015 they aim to increase this to 50%. Paris launched its innovative and popular Velib cycle-hire scheme in 2007. London is following suit with its own scheme in Summer 2010, and is planning a network of cycle superhighways. And elsewhere in the UK places as diverse as Cambridge and Hull have successfully reached or maintained high cycling levels.
1.15 Even in the USA, where for so long the car has been perceived as king, the New York Department of Transportation has recently completed a three- year programme of cycling measures that added 200 miles of bike lanes and seen a 45% increase in commuting by bike, while the ‘Plaza Programme’ has enabled not-for-profit organisations to apply to re-claim streets that are underused by vehicles to turn them into vibrant pedestrian plazas.
2.10 Our roads are now among the safest in the world, but cyclists and pedestrians remain particularly vulnerable road users. Aside from the effect that casualties have on individuals and their families, pedestrian and cyclist casualties are a significant burden on local health services. Furthermore, safety concerns are often cited as a reason why people do not cycle or, for example, allow children to walk to school meaning that they are missing the opportunity to do more physical activity and improve their health.
5.2 DfT already provides over £1.3bn capital funding per year for small-scale transport improvement and maintenance programmes – alongside Formula Grant from Dept of Communities and Local Government – but historically local authorities have chosen to spend relatively little of this on supporting active travel. Where investment has been made, too often this has been in a piecemeal fashion rather than integrated effectively into a wider sustainable transport plan and co-ordinated with health and social objectives. This means that we are not realising the full potential of active travel to reduce local area carbon emissions and help the UK meet its climate change targets.
5.3 In an increasingly budget-constrained world, Local authorities will have to do more with less, focusing on low-cost, high value measures that can support a number of objectives. With new Local Area Agreements and Local Transport Plans due to start in April 2011, the latter looking as far as 25 years ahead, there is an unmissable opportunity for health and transport professionals to work together to make sure cycling and walking are a core part of their area’s plans.
Getting the built environment right
“We need to remember that however people reach town centres, the main purpose of their journey – shopping, meeting friends, sightseeing – is actually achieved on foot. Yet too many of our streets and urban spaces have been given over to road traffic, at the expense of pedestrians and deliveries and we need to restore the balance for town centres to prosper.”
British Retail Consortium
5.11 Cycle and pedestrian facilities are a cost effective way of meeting sustainable travel and accessibility objectives of new developments, and should be a priority for local planning authorities when considering agreements with developers. Engagement between planners and developers at an early stage will make it easier and more cost
5.14 Many towns and cities – for example Oxford and Portsmouth – have already introduced 20mph speed limits across residential streets. DfT has committed to revising its guidance to local authorities to encourage them to introduce over time 20 mph limits or zones into their streets which are of a primarily residential nature and in streets where pedestrian flows are particularly high, such as around shops or schools where they are not part of any major through route. Our ambition is to see local authorities introduce 20mph zones and limits into more residential streets.
Actually Edinburgh has been quite good at this, the challenge now is to extend the speed limit to some (all?) ‘main’ roads that are also shopping streets. The fact that many are also tenemented clearly means that they are “residential” but the longstanding perception is that they are “roads” and the free flow of (motor) traffic is the most important thing.
5.24 High quality training in how to walk and cycle safely puts people at less risk on our roads than those who have not had such training. Kerbcraft improves children’s skills and confidence when crossing roads, and Bikeability gives them the skills and confidence to use the road safely on foot and by bike. Local authorities should make training a core part of promoting safe, active travel.”
That last sentence is most welcome to anyone who has tried to get cycling training taken more seriously by the Council in Edinburgh.
At present the official line is to “ensure the Scottish Cycle Training Scheme resources and practical training is promoted in every school, particularly in areas of deprivation and promote adult cycle training city-wide.”
But “promoted” is not enough. It has to be DELIVERED in every school. It needs to be in school time and for all pupils. At present only three Edinburgh primaries do all in pupils in a year group (P6 or P7) in school time – as part of the curriculum. This could change with the Curriculum for Excellence – “Sorry, no results were found for “cycle training” in Curriculum for Excellence.”