The UK Government has committed £32.9 million of funding to create a national network of walking and cycling schemes – with local councils invited to bid for the cash.
Local authorities will benefit from skills training and a boost to green jobs thanks to the scheme which will enable them to develop thousands of well thought-through local walking and cycling schemes, co-created by the communities who will use them.
As people across the country are looking to kickstart the year with healthy resolutions, the government expects to see millions shake up the way they travel. The investment will help local authorities in England design, develop and consult on high-quality active travel schemes that work for residents and consider the local road network. These can include new school safety zones to encourage active travel, improved walking and cycling infrastructure on local high streets as well as new cycle and wheelchair paths.
The measures aim to get more people of all groups walking and cycling and help to address the barriers that exist. Surveys show the number one issue putting women off cycling is how safe they feel on the roads with 79% of women supporting more protected cycle lanes being built. Safety will therefore be the major focus for the new designs and routes.
This funding will support local authorities to maximise active travel investment by enhancing their technical skills. Local authorities will be investing in resources dedicated to co-creating schemes communities want. Activities being funded include network planning, public engagement exercises and bespoke training for councillors and staff. The fund could see hundreds of new green jobs created across England.
Making active travel part of everyday journeys can improve health, cut costs and protect the environment. Cycling UK has estimated that if people cycled short journeys, they would save an average £126 per year in fuel costs alone and would burn hundreds of extra calories each week.
Active Travel Minister Jesse Norman said: “Leaving the car and walking and cycling instead is an easy way to get fit, save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
“Better designed schemes, which take into account the views of local people will help deliver improvements that have widespread local support.
“Skills training and local community engagement will help local authorities to make active travel an attractive choice for getting around.”
Developing teams that lead active travel programmes will create more cost-effective and well-targeted projects. Local authorities will learn how to enhance their engagement with residents, businesses and other road users to ensure schemes are delivered with local support.
National Active Travel Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said: “If we want to enable hundreds of thousands more people to walk, wheel and cycle for everyday trips then we need to deliver high-quality schemes that make it feel easy, fun and safe.
“Of course, ensuring the right technical skills are in place at a local level is vital but so is engagement. Survey after survey has shown strong community support for making space for active travel but it’s vital that people get strong input into helping to decide what is the right solution for their area.”
The funding will also be used to engage under-represented groups and enable more children to walk, wheel and cycle to school. Community engagement programmes will give individuals the confidence to walk and cycle safely through cycle training, school walking groups and bike rental schemes.
Xavier Brice, Chief Executive Officer of Sustrans, the charity that makes it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle, said: “Sustrans is pleased to see this investment in training and community engagement which will ultimately lead to high-quality infrastructure developments across England that help people choose to use their cars less.
“This funding is crucial in ensuring that travelling actively is a safe and accessible option for all, particularly as we work towards the Government’s goal of 50% of all journeys in towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030.
“We’re looking forward to seeing ambitious plans being brought to life and continuing our work to support our local authorities in doing so.”
The ‘capability fund’ will support local authorities across the country to train and retain local engineers and planners, creating a skilled active travel workforce able to collaborate effectively with local communities and conduct high-quality engagement and consultation sessions.
As well as enabling local councils to hire and retain skilled professionals, this multi-million-pound investment will deliver specialised training, driving up skills and ensuring consistent, high-quality schemes are set up across England to give people truly attractive active travel choices.