Government likely to miss cycling and walking targets

Three cycling and walking charities have warned that the government is in serious danger of missing its targets to increase levels of cycling and walking in England unless there is an increase in funding.

Cycling UK, Sustrans and Living Streets have urged the government to make a significant increase in investment in active travel to address a public health crisis after giving evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee inquiry into Active Travel.

The inquiry heard that the government is set to miss its target of getting 55 per cent of primary school children walking to school by 2025, with that figure having dropped to 51 per cent last year, as well missing its target of the 800 million hoped-for extra cycling trips by 2025.

Currently, only two per cent of total transport spending is on cycling and walking, with the charities arguing that this figure should rise to at least five per cent by 2020, as is the case in Scotland, and 10 per cent by 2024, with a large proportion of this allocated to support local authorities’ plans to increase cycling and walking.

The charities recognise Transport Minister Jesse Norman’s push to strengthen the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy; but a very significant funding boost is still needed if the government’s ambition, for walking and cycling to become the normal choices for short journeys, is to be realised.

Rachel White, senior policy and political advisor for Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity said: “We welcome the UK government’s work on walking and cycling in England to date. The government now needs to up its game on the low cycling levels and the decreasing numbers of children walking to school.

“Physical inactivity, air pollution, climate change and struggling high streets can all be reduced through the provision of high-quality infrastructure such as a network of protected cycle lanes and pedestrianisation of our shopping centres. This requires sustained, long-term investment in cycling and walking but we need real cross-departmental leadership and investment now to make the change. Additionally, any increase in funding nationally must be matched with a commitment to delivery at a local level.”

Roger Geffen, Cycling UK’s policy director, said: “Cycling is a miracle pill that can cure a lot of the ills this government is facing with air pollution and the physical health problems associated with inactivity. However, by its own admission, the government is not going to meet its own modest targets to double cycling, which Cycling UK believes is due to inadequate funding. Cycling UK believes government should rebalance its spending to local solutions to car dependence.”

Joe Irvin, chief executive of Living Streets, added: “Enabling more people to walk and cycle everyday journeys can hugely improve our health, air quality, traffic congestion and road safety. The government need to invest to make this happen. In particular, the government needs to encourage and enable more children to walk to school, or it will fail to meet its own target of 55% of primary school children walking to school by 2025.”

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