The Summer of Cycling and Walking

Friday 30th July was a bumper day for announcements and publications from the Department for Transport relating to cycling, to kick of its ‘Summer of Cycling and Walking’ campaign. In this article we attempt to simplify each one for you, and understand how they are relevant to us here in Bristol.

£338 million package to further fuel active travel boom

The active travel boom seen throughout the pandemic will continue to thrive thanks to a £338 million package to boost cycling and walking across the country, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today (30 July 2021).

It comes after last year saw cycling rise more than in the previous 20 years put together, with the number of miles cycled on British roads rocketing by 45.7% to 5 billion.

This is the next “tranche” of the Active Travel Fund, formerly the Emergency Active Travel Fund launched at the beginning of the pandemic. This fund has seen the implementation of “pop up” cycle lanes on a number of streets around the city, as well as some point closures creating quiet streets. We’ve been quite critical of the quality of some of the infrastructure provided so far using this fund, but it does secure the road space for better quality infrastructure in the future.

Verdict: If the local councils submit good quality bids (due 8th August), this could fund some good new infrastructure in the city.

Highway Code changes to implement hierarchy of safety

The proposed changes to the Highway Code, consulted on last year, are:

  • introducing a hierarchy of road users to ensure those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others
  • clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements to advise that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road
  • providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority when travelling straight ahead
  • establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders

The government has published a detailed review of the consultation responses, where are overwhelmingly in support of the majority of the proposed changes. The new Highway Code will be put before parliament in September and published soon after if approved.

VerdictThe proposed changes are a real step forward for walking and cycling – as long as they are observed by drivers of course!

Gear Change: one-year-on review

This time last year, the government published it’s “Gear Change” blueprint for how it would start a new active travel revolution. Alongside this was LTN 1/20, the new bible for cycle infrastructure designers and campaigners alike.

The review sets out what’s been achieved so far, how successful it has been and what’s coming next. Just a few of the interesting points are:

  • Bids are being invited for “mini Holland” schemes outside of London. These have been very successful in places like Waltham Forest, now considered the exemplar for what is possible with sustained investment in active travel.
  • “Active Travel England”, the new government body which will control most of the active travel funding and enforce quality standards, will launch in the autumn.
  • Metro Mayors (like Dan Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority) could be given control over the “Key Route Network” in their area. At present all highways responsibility remains with the councils in the area.

One quote stands out more than most:

We will reduce funding to councils which do not take active travel seriously, particularly in urban areas.
This includes councils which remove schemes prematurely or without proper evidence, and councils which never installed them in the first place. As Gear Change said, an authority’s performance on active travel will help determine the wider funding allocations it receives, not just on active travel.

Verdict: We were concerned that “Gear Change” could have been a one off – a headline grabber with no follow-up. However, it seems the government is keen to push on with this policy. We hope Bristol makes the most of it.

Cycle City Ambition programme: 2013 to 2018 evaluation

An evaluation of the effects of infrastructure implemented under this fund, which included a number of routes in Bristol.

At least 1 million car trips per year are estimated to have switched to cycle trips as a direct result of CCA-funded infrastructure. This replaced over 6 million km per year travelled by car, saving nearly 2 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Verdict: Infrastructure works. Build more of it.

Sharing our roads safely

A lot to digest in this report commissioned alongside the proposed Highway Code changes, analysing how different road users behave around each other and how they feel about each other.

Cyclists voiced the most concern for their personal safety, with drivers not leaving enough space when overtaking being their biggest concern. Cyclists and horse riders who were also drivers voiced the greatest concern, perhaps due to a greater awareness of the danger’s drivers can pose.

Verdict: The report concludes that a huge and carefully considered communications campaign needs to be launched alongside the Highway Code changes, and we agree!

Public attitudes towards traffic, road use and low-traffic neighbourhoods

A research piece on how the general public really feel about low-traffic schemes and traffic in general.

  • Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the government should act in local neighbourhoods to increase road safety (88%), improve air quality (86%), reduce traffic congestion (83%) and reduce traffic noise (75%).
  • Three quarters of respondents supported the reduction of road traffic in towns and cities in England (77%) and their local area / neighbourhood (78%), and two thirds of respondents
    were supportive of reallocating road space to walking and cycling across towns and cities in England (66%) and their local area / neighbourhood (65%).

Verdict: This research backs up our view that opponents to active travel schemes are generally a very vocal minority!