The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking published its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy 2 report on Monday 20th September. This report (APPG CW CWIS2, for short) was based on an open consultation with stakeholders in the sphere of Cycling, Walking, and Active Travel – from user groups to charities and campaigners (like us!) to industry bodies – and makes 26 recommendations for government policies to increase cycling, walking, and active travel. We submitted oral and written evidence during the consultation, and, now we’ve had a look at the report, we’re glad to see that this evidence was taken on board, and we’re pretty pleased with some of the other recommendations too!
ATIS, not CWIS?
Image 1 Report Front Cover Credit: Brompton Bicycle Ltd
The very first recommendation in the APPG CW CWIS2 Report is not to talk about ‘cycling and walking’, but to talk about ‘active travel’. This might seem like a bit of an unnecessary distraction, but it’s more important than it sounds.
Language matters: for anyone who’s situation means they don’t identify as a walker/pedestrian or as a cyclist, a Cycling and Walking plan can seem something not worth getting involved with. Equally, for professionals who design our streets, asking them to plan for cycling and walking can reinforce the (wrong) assumption that they only need to worry about people on two feet and/or on two wheels, as anyone else will either drive, take a cab or stay indoors!
We think that we all should have the right to travel actively, for however short or long a part of our journey and however we get about. It shouldn’t matter whether we use our feet or whether we use any kind of mobility aid (the arm of a friend; a guide dog; a rollator; a wheelchair; a mobility scooter; a bicycle/tricycle/handcycle/tandem etc.). Our streets must be designed to enable active travel by all and investment strategies should have this wider focus.
Money, Money, Money
Improving infrastructure and providing training, access, and encouragement for authorities, planners, businesses, and the public to increase levels of active travel costs money in the short term. Currently, £7 per person per annum is spent on active travel nationally; the APPG CW CWIS2 report estimates that this needs to increase to £25 per person per annum. Longer term, spending on active travel is a good investment: it improves public health and wellbeing, reduces carbon emissions, supports local economies, and reduces congestion.
Image 2 Credit: Living Streets
Access to Cycles
We were especially pleased to see that the APPG CW had taken on board our concerns about the wider lack of funding for accessible cycles. We highlighted that the current Motability scheme provides subsidized access to powered wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and accessible cars for eligible Disabled people, but does not offer subsidies for (similarly expensive) adaptive cycles. We also noted that, while wheelchairs and specialist mobility aids are VAT-exempt, bicycles and many tricycles purchased by Disabled people for use as a mobility aid are not. The APPGCW CWIS2 Report recommends that cycles are included in the Motability scheme and are VAT-exempted when purchased for use as a mobility aid. We campaign for better financial support for Disabled cyclists and this is welcome support for our efforts!
The APPG CW also highlighted that, while all other forms of e-vehicle are provided with a “plug-in” grant, e-cycles are excluded. They suggest that this e-vehicle subsidy should be reviewed, and that the cycle-to-work scheme should be amended to make it easier to purchase e-bikes, mobility cycles, and e-cargo bikes. Many respondents to our recent Survey (report forthcoming) indicated how important e-assist was to compensating for low energy levels and/or pain, so this is something we welcome. The APPG CW also suggested that some funding should be used to expand the design and manufacture of active travel equipment in the UK: we’d like to see the expansion of the accessible cycle industry in particular, reducing the cost of specialist equipment.
Arguably, this is the most important theme in the APPG CW CWIS2 Report: we need equitable access to active travel for everyone. The Report recognizes that current support for active travel is often inequitable, and that there are two major systemic barriers to mobility justice that need to be addressed:
- Lack of knowledge about participation in active travel in underrepresented groups. This means that it’s difficult to set any meaningful targets for increased participation.
- Lack of knowledge about the needs of under-represented groups (particularly Disabled people) amongst active travel planners and providers. This means many schemes at best meet the minimum required by the Equality Act – this isn’t enough.
These systemic barriers could be addressed by:
- More training and resources for local authorities, planners, and providers, both in the design of schemes and community engagement and consultation.
- Collecting more, better quality information about active travel and barriers to active travel amongst under-represented groups.
- Focusing more on multi-modal trips and potential ‘active’ journeys beyond commuter journeys.
There’s a lot more detail in the CWIS2 Report, but we support the emphasis on better training, better consultations, and making it easier to travel actively on a wider range of journeys.
Image Credit: TfL
Design standards for Pavements
Equity for cyclists and wheelers is slowly improving, with new cycle design standards (LTN 1/20 published July 2020) providing extensive guidelines for wheeled active travel. However we e strongly believe active travel for Disabled people won’t happen without a real focus on also improving the quality of pavements . Again, the APPG CW responded to this demand and has recommended a new design standard for accessible pedestrian environments, addressing width, gradients, surfaces, tactile paving, crossings, lack of obstructions, and a focus on continuous footways and safe crossings.
But what does this mean in practice?
An APPG report is not government policy or statutory guidance: it is a summary of the research undertaken by an APPG and their recommendations for what actions the government should take in response. Technically, there is no obligation for the government to take any notice of the report.
However, we are optimistic that they will take notice. APPGs are cross-party groups of MPs and members of the House of Lords; their recommendations are non-partisan and more likely to gain support from a broad range of MPs than single-party groups. APPG reports are based on open meetings with a range of experts and stakeholders, ensuring that their recommendations are based on sound evidence. For this APPG report specifically, we’re optimistic because it reflects current government interests and policies. The government stated in its 2020 Gear Change report that it hoped to increase levels of cycling, walking, and active travel; it published LTN 1/20 and is creating Active Travel England to support this. We are working closely with the DfT, who have been exploring a range of schemes to improve access to active travel for Disabled people. The recommendations in the APPGCW CWIP2 would help ensure the aims of Gear Change have the strongest impact by focusing on key remaining barriers to active travel.
Image 4: AAPG CW CWIS2 Report