In May last year, the Government’s Gear Change report announced £2bn of new money for cycling and walking over the course of this parliament. £320m was provided to local authorities during 2020/21 through a new Active Travel fund. One year on, we look at the Government’s latest report on the impact of Gear Change on cycling and active travel, and consider what more is needed.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Cycling Infrastructure
New funding for cycling and walking was accompanied by new guidance of cycle infrastructure design: Local Transport Note 1/20 (or ‘LTN1/20’). This design guide put accessibility and inclusion at the core of cycle infrastructure design, so we are hopeful that this will mean more opportunity for Disabled people.
The funding for new cycling and walking infrastructure led to at least 150 new Low Traffic Neighborhoods, adding to the thousands of pre-existing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and resulting in a significant increase in walking and cycling in those areas. Further funding for more cycle lanes is planned; and £30m of the new money will be used to improve surfacing, widen paths, and remove barriers on the National Cycle Network (See Sustrans’ Paths for Everyone campaign). Our Bash the Barriers campaign has more information on how you can help us identify (and remove) barriers to accessible cycling.
Alongside funding, the Government highlighted that local authorities would lose future funding if infrastructure trials were removed too quickly. Some local authorities have been accused of either not consulting local communities sufficiently, and/or for responding too quickly to negative feedback, leading to infrastructure being removed before the longer-term impact of the change could be properly measured.
Consultations with the local community are a vital way to gather evidence of the impact of these trials, both good and bad, but the opinions they collect can only be properly representative if they reflect the diversity of the local community – including Disabled cyclists! We have a weekly consultations list available for anyone looking to discuss changes in their local environment (currently focused on London but we will explore how to widen this to other areas of the UK). Keep an eye on the webpage or contact us to receive e-mail updates, and help us with ensure the voice of Disabled cyclists are heard.
We welcome the Government’s promise to act on pavement parking and to give councils’ the power to enforce bylaws against the obstruction of the pavement. Pavement parking (and clutter and poorly maintained pavements more generally) is serious problem for pedestrians with mobility or visual impairments – we strongly support Transport for All’s Equal Pavements Pledge.
Active Travel Pilots
There are plans for GPs to make referrals to cycling and walking activities as part of an “Active Travel Prescribing” pilots. We hope this will include further support for individuals to access adaptive and non-standard cycles, address the higher costs to disabled and older people in accessing cycling activities, and highlight the beneficial impact of cycling for people with a wide range of physical and mental health needs. The Department for Transport also plans to roll out schemes to increase access to and use of e-cycles, helping more people to get to work, education, and training; and supporting more Disabled people to take longer journeys by cycle than they might be able to do on cycles without e-assist.
Visibility of Cyclists
Finally, we’re really happy to see that the Government have responded well to our call for greater representation of the diversity of cycling in government publications. There has been an increase in the diversity of cycles depicted – handcycles, trikes, cargo bikes, recumbents, rather than just ‘bikes’. While there much more still needs to be done to increase the understanding that cycling isn’t just on two wheels, greater visual representation is important.