The government’s controversial Infrastructure Bill is continuing its rapid journey through Parliament. CPRE has been pushing for many changes to the bill to bring about our transport vision to reduce dependency on cars and provide more travel choices.
Why we need a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
With this goal in mind, one particular change we’ve been calling for is a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. An amendment calling for the government to introduce this has now been tabled by Julian Huppert MP and this blog explains the main reasons why it’s worth supporting.
We’re hearing a lot in the news about a crisis in the NHS. Several hospitals across England are at breaking point because of overwhelming demand. Part of the reason for this demand is the high level of inactivity from so many of us.
A recent report by Public Health England shows that 1 in 6 deaths are now linked to inactivity and, as a population, we’re getting less active rather than more.
A different study of over 300,000 people found that just a small amount of exercise, equivalent to 20 minutes walking a day, can add years on to people’s lives. This is where cycling and walking come in. As forms of transport they don’t just get us to where we want to go without creating any air pollution, they improve our health whilst doing it.
Given these benefits, you would think the government would have in place an investment strategy for walking and cycling in order to get more of us doing them. They’ve introduced one for rail and they’ve introduced one for roads. But a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is bizarrely absent from the government’s plans.
CPRE has long recognised the benefits of cycling and walking and we’ve taken positive steps to encourage them. Our manifesto draws attention to the difficulty in travelling the last few miles between a station and home in the country, where poor infrastructure provision means using a car can be the only option. We also launched our Transport Toolkit to help develop ways of creating infrastructure to make rural journeys without a car easier.
At present England is well behind our European counterparts. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike but in England that figure is just 2%. Walking journeys meanwhile have dropped by 30% from just 20 years ago.
One of the advantages of being so far behind in cycling and walking is that we don’t have to start from scratch. From the numerous examples of countries successfully increasing cycling and walking, experts now agree that wholesale investment in infrastructure is what’s needed.
A number has already been put on this investment. The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report Get Britain Cycling (2.9MB PDF) called for a cycling budget of at least £10 per person, later rising to £20. The report notes how London spends £12.50 per person and Scotland £4. But for England outside London the figure is just £2, which is described as ‘far too low to increase cycling levels’. Rural areas especially suffer. Government funding so far has been targeted at 8 ‘cycle cities’ and to a lesser extent to national parks. But for rural areas away from national parks, lack of funding makes it difficult to improve poor cycling and walking provision.
What we need then, is a nationwide investment strategy for cycling and walking that is delivered locally. This means long-term funding, rather than temporary initiatives. We also need well designed and continuous cycle lanes that are separated from traffic, with protection for cyclists at junctions. The same goes for walking. Parents, for example, will not want their children to walk to school along country roads with no footpath and lorries thundering past at high speed.
With the Infrastructure Bill currently going through the House of Commons, we have the opportunity to include cycling and walking as part of a wider transport policy that puts sustainable transport first.
We’ve teamed up with 15 of England’s largest and most respected environmental and health groups. Together, we’re calling for the government to take this opportunity to put cycling and walking at the heart of a sustainable transport policy (view the related news release).
An amendment calling for this has been tabled by Julian Huppert MP and, if passed, England could finally be on the road to levels of cycling and walking that we can all be proud of. Now we need to get as many MPs as possible to support this amendment.
Already, thousands of you have used our easy online campaign tool to write to your MP. If you’re one of those people I’d like to thank you. If you haven’t done so yet then please send an email to your MP to let them know that cycling and walking must to be prioritised.
If we don’t manage to get MPs to back cycling and walking we already have a good idea of what will happen. The graph below shows how the Department for Transport predicts we will be travelling by 2040. Less people walking, cycling, taking the bus. Even less people travelling as passengers in cars. Just more of us in our cars, by ourselves, driving up air pollution, suffering from ill health, with the countryside destroyed to make way for new roads.
The Department for Transport are quick to state that these are forecasts. They do not reflect what they actually want to happen. But there can be few who think this future vision of a countryside blighted by more pollution, cars, congestion and roads is something anyone would want. We have the opportunity to ensure that England has a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to help us become a healthier, less congested and more sustainable nation. What we need now is for our MPs to take this opportunity.
Find out more
Download the 'Everybody active, every day: a framework to embed physical activity into daily life' report (3.35MB PDF) by Public Health England.
Read the Scientists recommend 20-minute daily walk to avoid premature death and Cycling in Britain: government to get serious with all-party inquiry articles on The Guardian website.