The National Assembly for Wales has published a cross-party report into the Active Travel Act’s somewhat subdued first year…
Perhaps the most comforting thing about the document is that it echoes many of the common complaints we hear about the Act and its progress…or lack thereof. The report also makes a number of recommendations:
Recommendation 1. The Welsh Government should have a specific budget line dedicated to supporting active travel. The budget for active travel should be used for both supporting active travel infrastructure projects and promoting active travel.
Whilst there does appear to be money available from Welsh Government, it is dependent on successful bids by Local Authorities to unlock that cash. It was also on an annual basis until very recently, effectively ruling out exciting or ambitious developments even if councils had the desire to implement them. They’re now moving to 3-year indicative budgets. Fingers crossed that this makes a difference.
Recommendation 2. In line with the recommendations in Professor Stuart Cole’s report ‘Active Travel Independent Ministerial Report’, the level of funding for active travel should be reviewed.
It’s currently at around £5 per head, but we have a lot of catching up to do.
Recommendation 3. The Welsh Government should ensure that there is sufficient expertise and capacity within the transport team to effectively assess the Existing Route Maps and Integrated Network Maps prepared by local authorities.
This goes without saying, doesn’t it.
Recommendation 4. The Welsh Government should make sufficient resources available to local authorities for developing their Integrated Network Maps.
Again, an obvious one.
Recommendation 5. The Welsh Government should make the information held within its central data capture system accessible to the public, in particular for use in map apps.
It would be nice to see this data shared with OpenStreetMap, even though the report mentions Google maps throughout. Public data should stay in public hands, shouldn’t it?
Recommendation 6. The Welsh Government should initiate a national population level campaign to promote the benefits of active travel. The campaign should include approaches aimed at reaching all sections of Welsh society, including hard-to-reach groups.
Yes, most definitely yes. The lack of active travel promotion has been troubling. We’ve recently seen some NHS organisations making active travel mumblings, but as a means to tackle obesity, inactivity and poor air quality, there seems to be a distinct lack of interest out there.
Recommendation 7. The Minister should consider how best to engage with the Board and ensure it is effective in implementing the Act.
Another obvious one.
Recommendation 8. The Active Travel Plan should contain a statement of ambition which sets targets for an increase in the number of walking and cycling journeys in Wales. It should also set out how each Welsh Government Department will promote and support active travel.
No arguments there either.
We’ve tried to remain upbeat these past few months, giving the process the benefit of the doubt and trying to rationalise the frustrating pace of things.
Here in Cardiff, since the Act came into force we’ve seen…well, diddly squat. Oh, we did see a lot of people fall on their backsides and hurt themselves on our trails and pavements when they tried to travel actively, simply because the council neglected to grit anywhere there might be cyclists or pedestrians.
We also saw how little of Cardiff’s infrastructure was up to standard when they published their existing route maps. This has understandably left a sour taste in the mouth of many at a time when we are seeing other cities around the UK racing ahead with good, dedicated infrastructure that parents are happy to see their children use.
This is the sort of thing we’d love to see in Cardiff, but we’ve spoken to parents who are frankly bored of taking their kids up and down the Taff Trail. I’m afraid that’s pretty much all we have right now.
Welsh Government seriously needs to consider enforcement of the Act. Councils need to fear failure to increase the number of people cycling and they need to start growing some balls and taking road space away from the motorist –particularly where the pointless part-time dual-carriageways exist, such as North Road south of Gabalfa; Penarth Road between the station and Penarth itself and Newport Road, which could form part of an effective east-west route if it just had some dedicated cycle lanes on it.
Rather than give motorists the opportunity to dither and leave joining the prevailing lane until the last minute, simply take it out of the equation. We could then have some cycle superhighways of our own.