Funding for cycling and walking schemes need to be simplified further for local authorities, according to the ICE.
This forms part of a number of recommendations from a recently published ICE insights paper assessing the impact of previous UK active travel strategies and what the second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy needs to cover.
For those reasons, the benefits of cycling and walking are rarely argued against. But to fully realise these objectives, we need better cycling and walking infrastructure and a more holistic approach that embeds active travel across other areas, such as net zero and planning policies.
It agrees that more people cycling and walking will play a critical role in meeting national objectives. It reduces emissions, decreases congestion on roads and improves air quality and health.
In 2017, the UK government published the first statutory Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS1), covering England between 2016 and 2021.
Earlier this year, the government confirmed that it would publish a second strategy (CWIS2) for actions beyond 2021.
CWIS1 was supported by an initial £1 billion of funding over five years. Both cycling and walking increased over the period, while dozens of local authorities received support to develop Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans for their areas.
However, the funding arrangements were complex, with local authorities dealing with multiple pots of money, each with different criteria and timescales.
And on top of this, significantly more emphasis was placed on cycling, even though walking represents the most common and accessible mode of transport.
All in all, there were positives but definite room for improvement.
Part way through the timescale of CWIS1, the government introduced new measures to increase walking and cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic. This included £250 million of funding for pop-up infrastructure to increase space for walking and cycling, enabling local authorities to try out new solutions to promote active travel.
In July 2020, the Gear Change report set out the government’s vision for walking and cycling based on the themes of making streets better, incorporating active travel into decision-making, giving local authorities more power and motivation, and enabling and protecting cyclists.
In interviews with experts, there was a generally positive feeling about the measures and vision introduced in Gear Change, the funding commitments outlined within it and the publication of the revised Local Transport Note guidance for designing cycle infrastructure (LTN 1/20).
The next strategy – CWIS2 – is due to come out in April 2022. Some of the funding has already been confirmed through the commitments in Gear Change, but there are still many areas identified by ICE experts where the government could improve on measures already committed to.
Firstly, there should be a greater emphasis on walking within CWIS2. It needs its own targets, its own dedicated investment, and better data collection.
Funding to meet the targets in CWIS2 will be crucial. CWIS1 had too many different funding pots that did not always address local needs, while the short-term nature of funding means the most ambitious and effective schemes cannot be fully realised.
The funding process for local authorities should therefore be simplified, and funding should be guaranteed across multiple years, similar to how the Road Investment Strategy works.
The need for greater inclusivity is a fundamental aspect of LTN 1/20. CWIS2 should have a focus on reducing inequality by supporting those most in need, so it makes sense for projects to be evaluated against how they reduce inequality.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need coordination across government. Active travel cuts across many priorities, including improving health and well-being, climate change mitigation, economic development and urban planning.
CWIS2 presents an opportunity for systems change that embeds active travel into net zero, planning policy, public health targets and more besides.