Hot on the heels of the National Assembly for Wales’ report into active travel, the Welsh Government has now published its plan of action.
The action plan, to its credit, does a fair job of addressing many of the broad issues raised by the Assembly Members involved in the report, including issues of funding, promotion and integration with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
The Active Travel Action Plan complements the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and sets out our vision for active travel and how it relates to our wider aims.
Source: Active Travel Action Plan
Whilst it’s worth having a read of the document yourselves, we thought it would be helpful to pull out some of what we see as particularly interesting.
Leadership is one of the issues pounced upon by the press and by the Start of the Journey report, but whilst the action plan appears to merely re-state the current approach, there was this encouraging piece of thinking:
Active Travel is too often considered a transport issue, when many of the benefits will be felt by employers, schools, colleges as well as health and social service providers. Supporting increases in walking and cycling should therefore be tackled as a service-straddling issue in local authorities, as well as across Welsh Government departments.
This is a welcome change of emphasis on what appeared to be a tacked-on activity, to something much further-reaching. At the end of the day, ill-health is bad for business whether you are an individual, an employer or a health service. If you can keep people healthy by having them walk & cycle more, it goes far beyond a mere transport issue.
In terms of infrastructure, paragraph 4.2 makes the point that the design guidance is not only mandatory for local authorities, but it is also an evolving entity with scope to incorporate experimental solutions. It doesn’t specifically mention super-highways, but it doesn’t rule them out either.
Previous methods of transport appraisal (WelTAG) have been criticised for inadequately reflecting wider benefits of active travel schemes, in particular health benefits. The revision will consider how capturing these benefits can be accurately incorporated into appraisal.
Sounds encouraging, but until we know what the revisions are, we won’t get too excited.
The subject of funding has long been a bone of contention, with figures for Wales often quoted as being the equivalent of around £5 per head, if not less. To deal with this, the action plan states:
We will develop the funding strategy that will consider the merits of setting a fixed rate of active travel transport funding against other funding options.
This unfortunately doesn’t tell us very much, other than “we’ve heard the calls for a set annual amount and we’ll look into it”.
As we’ve said, it’s best you read the document and draw your own conclusions, but we’ll leave you with a bit of a beefy quote on the subject of another bone of contention, particularly in Cardiff –shared infrastructure.
With the increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists that we are aiming to achieve, there is a risk, at least for an interim period, that conflict may become more frequent and attitudes towards other transport users could become more entrenched. The Welsh Government will work with partners, including the relevant local and police authorities to develop mechanisms to monitor conflict arising from increased active travel, with a view to identify appropriate solutions to reduce incidences of conflict.
Shared infrastructure pleases nobody, but as a cyclist it means we have the choice of either being the big fish in the small pond full of pedestrians, or we can be the small fish in an ocean of cars & commercial vehicles. Neither is ideal, but other UK cities are leading the way with dedicated infrastructure. The Act makes provision for re-allocating road space away from the car, so it is technically possible for us to do the same.
We remain hopeful that at some point in the future, councils & government will stop skirting around the issue and just get on with it.
Hope this will mean a rewrite of the Enfys design guide, which doesn’t appear to prioritise separate bike infra.