Government reportedly set to create new Office for Active Travel with budget of £1 billion

Cross-departmental body would focus on cycling and walking projects and could be announced in June, says BikeBiz

by Simon_MacMichael   April 29, 2013  

Dog in bike basket (copyright Simon MacMichael)

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."

8 user comments

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Fingers crossed for this.

Could force some serious change in travel infrastructure. Maybe they've been listening all along?

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [89 posts]
29th April 2013 - 9:51

6 Likes

or to be cynical, create an office, staff it with no hopers and lock them away, makes it sound like they are doing soemthing whilst doing nothing.

Or populate it with drivers and carry on designing infrastructure that is not fit for purpose but ticks some boxxes.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1364 posts]
29th April 2013 - 11:40

5 Likes

Government is in the business of passing new laws. A few pro-cycling laws wouldn't go amiss.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [263 posts]
29th April 2013 - 14:21

5 Likes

As well as the office for blue paint, can we also have an Office for Road Integrity with £10b budget.



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1434 posts]
29th April 2013 - 18:23

6 Likes

This could be great. Let's give it a go!

posted by a.jumper [726 posts]
30th April 2013 - 8:02

6 Likes

Quote:
David Cameron: "There is a huge clamour for cycling ... With more backing from the Government I can see [cycling] quadrupling in the UK."

Quadruple? That makes 8%. The Get Britain Cycling report calls for 10% by 2025, which itself is hardly a stretch goal compared with Holland.
Is the 1bn a one-off and how many years will it be spread over? We need to dedicate a substantial proportion of the roads budget to making roads fit for cycling and providing Dutch-standard infrastructure on a permanent basis, so I hope this is as good as it sounds and not another big headline with little benefit. We often see bodies like this spending millions on offices and taking months to get set up, so it remains to be seen whether this will be any better than Cycle England and whether the hiatus that particular axing created was worth it.

However, let us not carp. If this can deliver what it promises it is to be warmly welcomed. I just wish I saw a proposal to lift the generally dire standard of road design in this country, by for example, mandating training in cycle-friendly design for Highway Planning teams. Without it, a lot of the 1bn could be wasted.

posted by arowland [101 posts]
30th April 2013 - 16:41

5 Likes

I wonder if they will consider filling in all the potholes and ruts, and mending the appalling road surfaces that we have to contend with on country roads all over the UK. Will they fully understand that cycling is a sport and leisure activity, as well as a form of urban transport? Not everyone rides in towns n cities, and we all want to be safe. Confused

ridelikeapro

posted by ridelikeapro [1 posts]
30th April 2013 - 22:27

3 Likes

Before we get overly excited, a note of caution...

There had been discussions within Government for some months about the possibiity of an Office for Active Travel (OAT), and the £1bn figure has also been quietly dropped into various conversations (although the timescale for spending it is by no means clear).

However, the name OAT no longer seems to be in favour in Whitehall (although I hope they still do something like it). So in that respect, this story is out of date.

In another respect, namely the £1bn figure, it risks being premature. Inter-departmental and cabinet-level negotiations over the Comprehensive Spending Review are now underway, with the announcement due on 26th June (i.e. not very far away!). It is by no means certain that the £1bn of cycling funding will come out at the other end of the process

The best thing that road.cc readers can to do help secure the £1bn is to sign the online 'Get Britain Cycling' petition - and encourage all your friends / customers / other networks to do likewise!

It's well on the way to reaching the target of 100,000 signatures - and that in turn would help ensure a parliamentary debate. THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN ASAP!!

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196

In short, PLEASE GET SIGNING, and SPREAD THE WORD LIKE CRAZY!

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director
CTC, the national cycling charity

posted by Roger Geffen [36 posts]
1st May 2013 - 9:13

3 Likes