A new cross-departmental government body with a budget of £1 billion to invest in cycling and walking projects and possibly called the Office for Active Travel (OAT) is set to be announced in June, reports BikeBiz.
The trade website says that the forthcoming announcement may be one reason for the government’s muted response to last week’s publication of the Get Britain Cycling report from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG).
Responding to the news on Twitter, the APPCG said, “This could be the most significant news for cycling, for a generation!” Given the joint focus on cycling and walking, it’s also positive news for pedestrians, too.
BikeBiz says that the cross-departmental nature of the proposed body reflects an acknowledgment that cycling extends well beyond transport into areas that are the responsibility of a range of government departments.
The Get Britain Cycling report recommended that the government establish a Cycling Action Plan, signed by the prime minister, and underlined that the issue should not just be left to the Department for Transport, with a number of other departments having “key roles to play.”
It listed those as the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Department for Communties and Local Government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department for the Environment and Rural Affiars, Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
A source close to the proposed new Office for Active Travel told BikeBiz: "By working together, cycling and walking organisations and campaigners will be much stronger. The Office for Active Travel would have all-party support. It's a very promising new body."
It would include an advisory aboard that could co-opt cycling experts, with names mentioned by BikeBiz including Bicycle Association chairman Philip Darnton, former chair of Cycling England, and Chris Boardman.
Last week, the former world and Olympic champion told the trade website that he would be interested in assuming the role of Cycling Champion envisaged by the Get Britain Cycling report.
BikeBiz says that one attraction of the Office for Active Travel to the government and the Treasury in particular is that it could hit the ground running, with a number of “shovel-ready” schemes from local authorities to which it could give the green light.
It adds that the new body may be officially announced as part of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, due to be announced in June.
On Thursday, the day after the publication of the Get Britain Cycling report, Prime Minister David Cameron visited bicycle component firm Hope Technology in Barnoldswick, Lancashire.
Asked about the report, he said: "There is a huge clamour for cycling - it’s a growth industry - and I will be looking with an enthusiastic eye to see what we can do.
“With more backing from the Government I can see [cycling] quadrupling in the UK."
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.