The Welsh Government minister who helped the country’s ground-breaking Active Travel Act become law last year says that local councils need to ensure that safe routes for cyclists are joined up to one another, rather than leaving riders in positions of danger when they end.
Culture and sports minister John Griffiths was speaking to Wales Online as he accompanied its Senedd reporter Graham Henry and Sustrans Cymru director Jane Lorimer on a bike ride around Cardiff.
“I think that Cardiff and Welsh local authorities have done a lot in terms of provision for cyclists, and it’s much better than it was years ago,” said Mr Griffiths. “Many more people cycle. There’s a lot to be positive about.”
But the man who steered through the Active Travel Bill, which places an obligation on local authorities in Wales to develop and maintain an integrated network of walking and cycling routes, said that currently many cycle paths end at a “pinch point” that puts riders back among road traffic at hazardous locations.
“Yes, it does need to be joined up better,” he acknowledged. “That’s one of the key points of our Active Travel Act, the mapping of existing routes and the mapping of the new routes will be very much about joining up and dealing with these issues such as road safety, and crossings and pinch points. Where it’s far too hazardous.”
Asked about November’s spate of cycling fatalities in London – six riders were killed in the space of a fortnight, all of them in collisions with large vehicles such as lorries and buses – he said: “I think it is a very particular situation in London because of the sheer volume of motorists and cyclists in a very congested area, but there are safety issues for cyclists all over the world, that obviously includes Wales.
“So safety will be at the very heart of what we do around the Active Travel Act.”
The trio rode onto the Taff Trail, where Sustrans has introduced a code of coduct for users after a series of incidents involving fast-moving cyclists and pedestrians, including dog walkers.
Sustrans has called on the Welsh Government to increase funding for cycling form the current £3 a head to £10 a head, and Ms Lorimer pointed out that the latest Welsh budget did not set aside money specifically for cycling.
But Mr Griffiths said that money was available, and that councils should not point to cuts in their budgets as a way of avoiding their responsibilities under the Active Travel Act.
“There is ring-fenced funding within the transport budget,” he maintained.
“It will be to help get the infrastructure we need to get in place. To work with the local authorities. For example, when new road schemes are taken forward, there will be a requirement to make sure cycling provision is considered as part of them.
“When you look at the whole package and the sort of spend that is taking place at the moment, I think assessed by Sustrans at over £3 per head of population in Wales in terms of cycling. There is considerable investment.
“I would agree we need to increase it. I think we need to work towards the increase over a period of time,” he added.
The Active Travel Act places a number of duties on various bodies, including:
• A duty to promote active travel and to report annually on the activity undertaken
• A requirement on local authorities to report on their progress on the network, level of usage and associated costs
• A requirement on Welsh Ministers to report annually on levels of active travel
• A requirement on highways authorities to take into account the needs of walkers and cyclists when carrying out certain key functions under various highways acts, such as road works.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.