Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said that the government wants “half of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030” – but declined to disclose what funding might be available beyond 2025.
Appearing before a virtual session of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee yesterday, Shapps was quizzed on the subject of active travel by the Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling & Walking.
The Nottingham South MP, a former chair of the Transport Select Committee, began by asking Shapps whether the government’s forthcoming transport decarbonisation plan would include car traffic reduction targets.
The transport secretary replied: “I don’t want to give off the impression that somehow cars are bad and everything else is good, because I don’t think it’s that simple, not least when 10 per cent of new cars now are being sold electric, so it’s a little more complicated than that.”
But he added that “We want half of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030.”
Asked by Greenwood whether the Department for Transport had “conducted any research into what level of investment would be needed to achieve that target,” Shapps mentioned only the £2 billion allocated to active travel during the period 2020-25, that is the lifetime of the current Parliament.
But he added: “There’s no way that we would stop spending in 2025 on something which we consider to be such a huge priority.”
More than a year into the five-year term, however, only £250 million of that has been allocated so far, in the shape of the £225 million emergency active travel fund under which local authorities in England have been building infrastructure such as temporary cycle lanes, and the £25 million Fix Your Bike voucher scheme.
The pledge to spend £2 billion on walking on cycling from 2020-25 represents a near six-fold increase on the £350 million earmarked for active travel in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the December 2019 general election, but equates to little more than £7 per person per year.
That is far below the £17 per person per year, rising to £34 annually by 2025, called for by campaign groups belonging to the Cycling & Walking Alliance, whose members include British Cycling and Cycling UK.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged councils in England to “crack on” with building cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods, highlighting that DfT research has found the majority of local residents support such initiatives in areas where they have been put in place.
In 2019, before that year’s general election, the Transport Select Committee published a report entitled Active travel: increasing levels of walking and cycling in England.
Greenwood, the committee’s chair at the time, said: ““In England, the vast majority of journeys over a mile are made in a car or van. Even for distances of one to two miles, more than 60 per cent of journeys were made by motor vehicle and fewer than 2 per cent of journeys are made by bike.
“The government must stand up for active travel,” she added. “It must show real leadership by setting ambitious targets for cycling and especially walking. It must give local authorities the support and funding they need to engage the public and make active travel a priority in their areas. It must do whatever is necessary to persuade more people to get on their bike, or Shanks’ pony.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.