16 Sep 2020
The UK Government has recently launched a new active travel strategy for England aimed at encouraging and facilitating safe cycling and walking. The strategy, as set out in ‘Gear Change – a bold vision for cycling and walking’, is backed by £2bn of funding over five years; the biggest ever funding increase for these modes of transport.
Although billed as cycling and walking, the strategy is predominantly focused on cycling and seeks to build on the favourable conditions enjoyed by cyclists during lockdown. Recognising the health benefits, and even referencing the ongoing pandemic, the strategy encourages GPs to prescribe cycling to improve people’s fitness and well-being.
This strategy is reinforced by the simultaneous publication of new cycle infrastructure guidance which advises that high quality cycle routes should be coherent, direct, safe, comfortable and attractive; as opposed to the ad hoc provision that is often seen today. Indicating the need for significant design input, the guidance stresses that cyclists must be physically separated and protected from motor vehicles on roads with high speed or high volume traffic.
Supporting the delivery of this strategy will be a new expert Government body called Active Travel England. They will hold a cycling budget and refuse any applications for funding that don’t comply with the new infrastructure guidance. Importantly Active Travel England will also be a statutory consultee within the planning system to ensure cycling and walking is provided for within all developments over a certain threshold (still to be determined).
To successfully implement the strategy and comply with infrastructure design guidance - particularly in a coherent, direct, safe, comfortable and attractive manner – councils will inevitably have to reallocate road space away from motor vehicle traffic in support of walking and cycling.
This will prove challenging and create complexity for councils as they prepare to navigate this. Our transport team are here and ready to advise on the potential implications, and how best to prepare. To discuss what this may mean for you, contact Nick Roberts or your usual contact in the Transport and Infrastructure team.
 Local Transport Note 1/20 applicable to England and Northern Ireland
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