MPs have criticised the Government for inadequate and ‘piecemeal’ active travel investment and called for a dedicated funding stream for local walking and cycling.
The Transport Select Committee said there were no guarantees that the £2bn ministers claimed will be spent on active travel over this parliament actually will be, as the fund is not ringfenced, and pointed out even if it was, it amounts to just 1.5% of total transport spending.
In a new report, Active Travel: increasing levels of walking and cycling in England, the Committee says the absence of ring-fenced or dedicated funding for active travel means active travel is left unprotected.
In addition to increased funding, the committee called for more ambitious targets and said ministers ‘must signal to local authorities and the public that active travel is a priority with long-term benefits for individuals and the country as a whole’.
Committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP stressed the importance of active travel in the context of road transport’s contribution to poor air quality and greenhouse gases.
She said: ‘In England, the vast majority of journeys over a mile are made in a car or van. Even for distances of one to two miles, more than 60% of journeys were made by motor vehicle and fewer than 2% of journeys are made by bike.
‘The Government must stand up for active travel. It must show real leadership by setting ambitious targets for cycling and especially walking. It must give local authorities the support and funding they need to engage the public and make active travel a priority in their areas. It must do whatever is necessary to persuade more people to get on their bike, or Shanks’ pony.’
MPs said the £2bn that the Government has claimed will be spent on active travel in this Parliament is ‘welcome’ but pointed out that it equates to just £400m a year.
MPs said: ‘This is a tiny sum compared with spending on other areas of transport, just 1.5% of total Government transport spending.’
The committee recommended that the Government revises its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) as ‘current targets for cycling and particularly walking are not ambitious enough’.
MPs welcomed the development of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) by local authorities with support from the Department for Transport (DfT) but noted that the LCWIP programme is a pilot, and that the initial support for developing these plans was made available on a competitive basis.
They said: ‘We believe that ultimately there should be LCWIPs for the whole of England.’
The DfT said the forthcoming Spending Review will consider the appropriate level of funding post 2020/2021 required to deliver the aims and objectives set out in the CWIS.
A spokesperson said: ‘We continue to look at ambitious plans to encourage more people to travel on foot or by bike as we refresh our strategy and look to maximise funding beyond 2020.’