The first legal obligation on Westminster to provide a national cycling strategy with funding commitments could be established in time for next parliament after an amendment was made to the Infrastructure Bill today.
The amending clause puts a legal obligation on the Department for Transport to set a strategy for cycling, including targets and investment, and will also make the transport secretary directly responsible for ensuring that funds are secured.
If a cycling and walking investment strategy is not currently in place, the secretary of state must report to parliament and set one ‘as soon as may be reasonably practicable’, the Bill states.
Such as strategy must specify the objectives to be achieved over an appropriate period – if this is a period of more than five years it must be reviewed at least once every five years – and the cash provided by the transport secretary to achieve the objectives.
Chris Boardman, Olympic cycling gold medallist and policy advisor at British Cycling said the ‘amendment represents a massive shift in thinking and most importantly, commitment, [and] it brings us one step closer to realising our vision for a cycling nation’.
‘If passed, this Bill will mean that cycling can no longer be ignored as a legitimate form of transport. It makes the transport secretary directly responsible for setting targets and putting in investment,’ he added.
‘And this isn’t just about roads, it could require railway stations, offices and retail parks to all accommodate the needs of people on bikes. I expect all MPs and peers do the right thing and vote through this amendment’ he continued.
Liberal Democrat MP and co-chair of the all party parliamentary cycling group, Julian Huppert, said: ‘I am really delighted that the government has seen the force of our argument and is writing into law the cycling and walking investment strategy. It is the right thing to improve health, the environment and congestion.’
Another amendment published today would also require the secretary of state to direct a strategic highways company to prepare route strategies, and for the secretary to prepare reports on the exercise by a strategic highways company of its functions.
This clause is likely to have been made with an eye on the Highways Agency reforms, also legislated for under the Infrastructure Bill, which would convert the agency into Highways England, a wholly government-owned company.
The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and is due to go to the Commons report stage on 26 January, having progressed through the Lords.