Walking and cycling must be embedded into transport network

Following a number of active travel announcements, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport has stressed that investment in active travel must enable these structural and behavioural changes to become a permanent part of everyday life.

Following the government’s £250 million emergency active travel fund back in May, local authorities across England have been installing temporary infrastructure to enable more walking and cycling. ADEPT’s latest paper argues that to truly usher in the government’s ‘new era’ and ensure active travel is here to stay, walking and cycling must be designed into the travel network to maintain the changes that coronavirus has brought about.

Typical measures already brought in by councils have focused in many areas on locations with high footfall and narrow footways – those that have presented a challenge for enabling social distancing. Reducing waiting times at pedestrian crossings, installing temporary roadworks and signage, and reallocating road space are just some of the changes introduced at speed. Local authorities have been keen to adapt these in line with community feedback to ensure that the needs of different users can be accommodated.

ADEPT says that the government must empower local authorities to go further if it is serious about its commitment to achieving net zero and tackling climate change. It argues that successful measures must be made permanent and councils must be enabled to bring about structural change. To do this, however, councils must be properly resourced with long term capital and revenue funding to ensure both the delivery and ongoing maintenance of active travel infrastructure created through local cycling and walking infrastructure plans.

Mark Kemp, chair of the ADEPT’ Transport Board, said: “The concept of a ‘20 minute neighbourhood’ where people have everything they need - schools, shops, recreation and work - within a 20-minute walk is gaining traction across government. Enabling active travel is going to be fundamental to delivering rejuvenated neighbourhoods and creating brilliant places with stronger local economies, where people are able to enjoy a higher quality of life with cleaner air, a healthier lifestyle and a greater focus on local communities.

“ADEPT members are ready to work with government to make this truly a ‘new era’, but to succeed, these changes can only be made at the local level, using local knowledge and securing the buy-in of communities through clear engagement. To do that, place directors must have the resources in place and the ability to lead.”