Updated: Wales unveils Active Travel Bill - law compels councils to provide routes for cycling and walking

Sustrans hails proposed legislation as "World first" that will make a massive contribution to improving public health

by Simon_MacMichael   February 18, 2013  

National Assembly for Wales..jpg

The Welsh Government has today formally launched the Active Travel (Wales) Bill which sustainable transport charity Sustrans describes as a “world first” and says could be the single most important step taken to improve public health in the country since the introduction of the smoking ban in April 2007.

Sustrans Cymru has led the six-year campaign that has led to the Active Travel Bill, which will place an obligation on local authorities throughout Wales to incorporate develop and maintain an integrated network of cycling and walking routes.

According to the Welsh Government, the key features of the Bill are that it will require l;ocal authorities in Wales to:

identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling

identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network

deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process

consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes.

Launching the Bill at a Cardiff school today, Minister for Transport carl Sargeant said: “I have been very impressed with the pupils of Millbank school today and the skills they have learnt from the Bike It scheme.

"It’s clear that they have developed a love of cycling thanks to the project and ensuring that this spreads across the whole of Wales and amongst people of all ages is a vital component of the Active Travel Bill."

“The Bill aims to make it easier and safer for more people to walk and cycle and to make it possible for more children to cycle to school every day.

"We want to make walking and cycling the most natural and normal way of getting about and to ensure that active travel is a viable mode of transport shorter journeys.

"This will help make Wales a healthier and greener nation."

Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, commented: "We know our environment and transport can have an impact on our health, and I believe the Active Travel Bill will make it easier in everyone in Wales to make healthier choices. 

"Small changes to our daily routines, like walking and cycling short distances, can improve the way we feel as well as our physical health. 

"By making changes to the environment and transport, the Active Travel Bill will make the healthy choice, the easier choice. This is a great step forward for Wales.”

Last year, Sustrans said the Bill had the potential to save the NHS in Wales more than half a billion pounds over the next 20 years, provided it is implemented effectively.

“The evidence shows that the easiest way for most people to get more exercise is to build it into their daily routine, but even though most everyday journeys are short, many of us still choose to take the car – in fact 20% of our car journeys are less than one mile,” said Lee Waters, National Director of Sustrans Cymru.

“The Active Travel Bill aims to get more people walking and cycling for short local trips as part of tackling the obesity epidemic and reducing congestion,” he continued.

Paul Myres, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Wales, who practises as a GP near Wrexham, added, “As many people die from physical inactivity each year as die from smoking.  This Bill has the potential to make a real difference in improving the health of our nation.

“Scientific evidence has shown that our sedentary lifestyles are leading to an increase in diseases including diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers and that lack of activity is one of the easiest areas to address for most of us and can reap as much, if not more, benefit than reducing cholesterol in our diet.

“Getting regular exercise every day is crucial, what better way than to build it into the journeys we make on a regular basis.”

While Sustrans believes that new routes made possible by the bill can encourage people to switch from their cars to cycling and walking for shorter journeys, it says that will only happen if programmes are put in place that allow them to take advantage of the new infrastructure, as Lee Waters explained.

“Experience at home and abroad shows that building routes alone isn’t the answer,” he said. “People are used to the routes they drive, so we need to work with local communities to identify and promote the new networks.

“Here in Cardiff the Welsh Government’s recent Personalised Travel Planning project showed that you can treble cycling levels simply by making people aware of the routes that exist already.”

 

11 user comments

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“People are used to the routes they drive" "showed that you can treble cycling levels simply by making people aware of the routes that exist already.”
This hits the nail on the head, whilst working as a cycle sales person I found it very difficult to convince potential customers that there existed many miles of quiet safe roads to cycle upon, they were nearly always fixated on using "off road leisure routes" of often limited "journey potential"

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
18th February 2013 - 12:03

8 Likes

don't some of the flat countries have this already ?
When they build a new road they must provision cycle
paths alongside .....

nice step forward though Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [702 posts]
18th February 2013 - 13:56

9 Likes

This is excellent!

While still at university i wrote a dissertation on active travel, but must admit that i did focus on England to an extent. So it's a pleasant surprise to see Wales coming out with legislation.

The medical community, particularly the Royal Colleges which represent the different specialties, need to support this loudly, and not let governments water it down.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [586 posts]
18th February 2013 - 14:37

6 Likes

Yeah baby. Preferential treatment is going to improve motorist antipathy loads

posted by sidesaddle [70 posts]
18th February 2013 - 15:53

6 Likes

Hmm,

I'm all for high quality segregated infrastructure - and I believe that's the only way we'll get significantly more bums on bikes - but this bit (from wales.gov.uk) has me worried:

"The legislation will require local authorities in Wales to identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling"

My concern here is, if you are riding from A to B on the only realistic route - eg rural A roads such as the A4165 from Oxford to Banbury - and the local authority has not identified that road as "safe and appropriate for walking and cycling", then if you are injured (or worse) by a "careless" or dangerous driver, are they and their insurer going to argue that you shouldn't have been there in the first place?

These concerns are probably ill founded, as they do then state further duties to:

"identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network;"
"deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process;"
"consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes."

Therefore it's unlikely that an insurer could argue that you shouldn't have been on a particular road, when there is no realistic alternative.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [586 posts]
18th February 2013 - 16:23

8 Likes

Good news - hopefully this will catch on elsewhere as well.

My inner cycnic has two questions about this:
Does "identifying and mapping the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling" include a review of cleaning and maintenance regimes? Snow clearing, gritting, sweeping up the grit again, removing glass, filling potholes...
Litter can be an issue as well - a quiet route that avoids main road and allows pedestrians and cyclists to take advantage of sneaky shortcuts is less likely to be perceived as safe (in terms social safety, not traffic safety) if litter is allowed to accumulate.

The other problem with these networks is always going to be the signage. Bike signage has come on by leaps and bounds recently where I am based (Bavaria) but often still isn't up to the task of distinguishing between routes that are fine for any bike and ones that are really only suitable for more robust bikes. There is also no real attempt made to distinguish routes that are usable throughout the year from routes that are only usable in dry conditions, or routes that are easily usable at night from those that are not. Sometimes a cycling signpost has tempted me to follow a route with tarmacadam and street lighting only for both to disappear at the next junction, where the route turns into a steep, mucky track through a dark forest. Signage is hard to do well - it has to be instantly legible and yet provide enough information to be useful. Directional information (using actual placenames), but hopefully also some indication of what type of link the route represents.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
18th February 2013 - 17:42

6 Likes

Quick, buy shares in road paint before the road planners rush out to paint more death zones beside parked cars and declare it a cycle network.

posted by FMOAB [230 posts]
18th February 2013 - 23:08

6 Likes

FMOAB wrote:
Quick, buy shares in road paint before the road planners rush out to paint more death zones beside parked cars and declare it a cycle network.

This will give my local council a headache!!! Here in North East Wales I would say 90% of our cycle infrastructure is not fit for purpose. Yes it just lots of paint - white lines and big cycle stencils, not much good. Unusable when your are making progress on a road bike, as most is mixed with dippy pedestrians and there dogs or on road but unmaintained, full of glass and pot holes. Then when I go out on my hybrid with the kids these paths only take you so far then end abruptly, usually at the busiest and most congested road intersections there are in our local town! I regularly traverse across town with both my children and have had to be very inventive with my rout. I would be wonderful if this plan was put in to action but we will have to wait and see if anyone has the skills and talent in our local council to make it work?

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [56 posts]
19th February 2013 - 18:03

7 Likes

My concern is that drivers will believe all cyclists should not be on the roads. There is no way I am riding 20mph + on a shared path.

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [106 posts]
19th February 2013 - 20:54

11 Likes

Problem will be Local Authorities do not have the resources to put this legislation into effect unless specific funds are made available by WG, but that would be millions across Wales. Also usually these things are designed by over weight Highway Engineers who have not experienced riding a bike since they were a child. Carl Sergeant the Minister is hardly an advert for fitness and good health #PracticeWhatyouPreach

Mike262

Michael Edwards's picture

posted by Michael Edwards [6 posts]
20th February 2013 - 10:32

6 Likes

What never seems to be acknowledged is that we need a massive programme of retraining highway planners, combined with strong guidance from central government supporting proper cycling infrastructure, i.e. Dutch standards.

It doesn't matter how much money you throw at improving junctions (for example) or insisting on plans to create an integrated network of cycling and walking routes, if the people doing it are not competent and do not understand cyclist's needs (preferably at first hand by cycling themselves), then all we do is waste yet more public money and make things worse for cyclists. The vast preponderance of worse-than-nothing so-called cycling infrastructure in this country gives me no grounds for optimism.

So let's see the Welsh Government engage the Dutch Cycling Embassy to retrain ALL highway planners over the next two years, and then start to plan the networks we need.

posted by arowland [84 posts]
21st February 2013 - 15:15

5 Likes