A new cycling and walking strategy for the country has been drawn up by a Yorkshire politician keen to encourage people not to use cars for smaller journeys.
The new plan launched by Transport Minister and Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill is designed to help the country catch up with its continental counterparts, some of whom carry out a third of journeys on two wheels.
The Conservative politician hopes that by 2040 getting around by bike or on foot will be the natural choice for shorter journeys, cycling levels will have doubled, there will be a reverse in the decline in walking and a reduced rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured.
There will also be an increase in the number of children walking to school and funding will switch from short term projects to long term strategic investment for cycling and walking for the first time.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said: “The Government’s blueprint to encourage more people to cycle and walk will benefit the whole of society by boosting the economy, improving health, cutting congestion and improving air quality.
"Realising our ambition will take sustained investment in cycling and walking infrastructure. That’s why we have committed over £300 million to support cycling and walking over this Parliament and this will increase further when spending on enhancing and maintaining existing infrastructure is taken into account.
“Delivering this long term plan will require patience, persistence and a change in attitudes – amongst Government, local bodies, businesses, communities and individuals. We cannot afford not to grasp the opportunities available and we are determined to make this country a cycling and walking nation, comparable to the very best in the world.”
However British Cycling policy adviser and 1992 individual pursuit Olympic champion Chris Boardman believes far more ambition is needed if Britain is to create a cycling and walking culture to rival countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.
Mr Boardman said: “The truth is that without sustained funding, this strategy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. We know that when faced with other priorities like road maintenance, saving bus routes and new housing developments, cycling and walking will be put at the bottom of most councils’ to-do lists.”
British Cycling and CTC, the national cycling charity, are also calling for the objectives and funding proposals in the draft strategy issued by Mr Goodwill to be strengthened.
They point to the parliamentary Get Britain Cycling report which called for investment in cycling of at least £10 per person annually, rising to £20, in order to boost cycle use to 10% of trips by 2025, and to 25% by 2050. The draft Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy provides central government funding of just £300m over period 2015-20, amounting to just £1.39 per person outside London, the campaigners said.
CTC’s policy director Roger Geffen suggested that some of the motorway and trunk road budget should be moved towards cycling and walking.
The consultation launched today, Sunday March 27, and ends on Monday 23 May 2016. Responses will be assessed and a final strategy published in the summer, when the Government will also issue guidance to local bodies on developing local plans.
A new independent expert committee will be established by October 2016 to advise on the strategy and its implementation.
Cycling makes up 19% of trips in Denmark and 27% in the Netherlands – where spending on cycling is around £24 per person annually.