The Government's Infrastructure Bill will include provision for cycling and walking after an amendment proposed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert and others was added to the draft legislation currently before Parliament.
The amendment obliges the Department for Transport to set targets and investment for cycling and walking.
Cycling organisations and campaigners welcomed the amendment as a big step forward in ensuring that cycling is taken seriously as a form of transport by government and planners.
Julian Huppert, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, said:
“I am really delighted that the Government has seen the force of our argument and is writing into law the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
“It is the right thing to improve health, the environment and congestion."
British Cycling policy adviser, Chris Boardman, said:
“Transforming the way Britain travels is not something we can do overnight but this amendment represents a massive shift in thinking and most importantly, commitment. It brings us one step closer to realising our vision for a cycling nation.
“If passed, this Bill will mean that cycling can no longer be ignored as a legitimate form of transport. It makes the transport secretary directly responsible for setting targets and putting in investment.
“And this isn’t just about roads, it could require railway stations, offices and retail parks to all accommodate the needs of people on bikes. I expect all MPs and peers do the right thing and vote through this amendment.
"This truly is a fantastic move and is one that reflects the actions we called for in our #ChooseCycling action plan, launched in parliament last year. British Cycling’s 100,000-strong membership, and everyone who rides a bike, should see this as the start of something really exciting.”
Paul Tuohy, CEO of cycling charity CTC said: “This is a massive step towards creating that “cycling revolution” the Prime Minister promised us two years ago. Thanks to the hard work of DfT officials, the All Party Cycling Group coalition partners and the thousands of supporters who have written to their MPs cycling in England looks to have a future.
“Now we need MPs to demonstrate a collegiate response by backing an amendment which can only better the health and wealth of the UK, and with the general election only months away we await with eager interest to hear how much funding each party would put into the investment strategy. ”
Active travel charity Sustrans called the amendment "a great opportunity to guarantee long term funding that will extend travel choice, help to ease congestion and improve our health and our environment."
The devil, however, will be in the details. The amendment doesn't set out a level of funding for cycling, or any design standards for cycling infrastructure.
On Twitter, Transport campaigner Alex Ingram said: "So the revised design manual and proper audit of all road design for cycling goes from massively overdue to massively overdue and urgent."
Other cycling campaigners have expressed concern that if provision is left to local authorities, any funding will be wasted.
Surrey campaigner Parimal Kumar tweeted: "look at the "mini-Hollands" - Kingston is basically using cycling money to repave footpaths & that's it."
Nevertheless, the Infrastructure Bill will oblige the DfT to plan for cycling, a distinct improvement on what Chris Boardman once called "the ‘make nice noises but no real provision’ stance".
The key clause of the amendment says;
If a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is not currently in place, the
Secretary of State must—
(a) lay before Parliament a report explaining why a Strategy has not been set,
(b) set a Strategy as soon as may be reasonably practicable.”
Here's Chris Boardman's personal reaction to the news:
At last! First EVER legal obligation for Government to provide for cycling. A massive step in the right direction http://t.co/25sD9sh5Vq
— Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman) January 22, 2015
And Julian Huppert's:
I'm absolutely delighted the Government has agreed to my proposals for a cycling and walking investment strategy in law. This is huge! #fb
— Julian Huppert (@julianhuppert) January 22, 2015
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.