Wales’s ground-breaking Active Travel Bill is set to become law after being passed by members of the Welsh Assembly at the Senedd in Cardiff this evening.
The Bill, which will then need royal assent before passing into law, will place a legal duty on local authorities to develop and maintain an integrated network of cycling and walking routes.
Sustrans Cymru, which has hailed the Bill as a "world first" has been closely involved in campaigning for the legislation over the past six years.
This evening, the sustainable transport charity's national ditrector for Wales, Jane Lorimer, said: The passing of this legislation shows that Wales’s leadership is serious about making walking and cycling the normal choice for more of our everyday shorter journeys.
“Not only can we cut congestion in our towns and cities, but by getting more people walking and cycling we can save the NHS in Wales tens of millions in tackling preventable diseases caused by our lack of exercise.
“This is an historic day for Wales – change won’t come overnight, but the framework is now in place to make us a cycling nation.”
Earlier this year, in its Get Britain Cycling report, the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group held the Active Travel Bill up as a model that the rest of the UK could follow in encouraging more people to take to their bikes.
Besides making it easier for people, whether on foot or bicycle, to travel between workplaces, hospitals, schools and shops using traffic-free routes or cycle lanes, it also aims to improve the nation’s health by reducing car dependency and encouraging them to get active.
Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths, responsible among other things for the promotion of walking and cycling, including the Active Travel Bill, tabled a number of amendments that are aimed at improving the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, 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.
Mr Griffiths commented: “I am confident that this Bill, if agreed by the Assembly, will make a big difference to the people of Wales.
“By increasing the levels of walking and cycling we can boost our economy, create jobs, increase tourism, improve the health of our nation and cut congestion.
“It gives me great satisfaction to think that we’re leading the way with the Active Travel Bill and that this piece of legislation is attracting envious glances from other parts of the UK.
“With the Bill set to become law later today I believe we have the chance to make Wales a much more of a cycling and walking nation.”
The Active Travel Bill has the broad support of all four parties represented in the Welsh Assembly, controlled by Labour, which has 30 of the 60 seats.
Last year, Sustrans Cymru said the legislation could save the NHS in Wales more than half a billion pounds over the next two decades so long as 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 the sustainable transport charity’s national director for Wales at the time, Lee Waters.
“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 added.
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.