MPs have called on the Government to show more leadership and ambition in getting more people to walk or cycle instead of driving.
The Transport Committee today issued its Active travel: increasing levels of walking or cycling in England report, which shows that increased levels of walking and cycling can cut traffic congestion, air pollution and improve health.
It criticised the Government’s current Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy as “not ambitious enough” and called for targets and a strategy to enable people to get out of their cars and walk or cycle for short journeys or part of a longer trip.
The report states that funding for active travel is piecemeal and complex. “The £2 billion which the Government has said will be spent on active travel in this Parliament is welcome but equates to £400 million a year," it says.
“This is a tiny sum compared with spending on other areas of transport, just 1.5% of Government transport spending.
“The committee recommends a dedicated funding stream for delivering improvements which will increase levels of walking and cycling and increased total funding for active travel.”
Lilian Greenwood, chairman of the Transport Committee, said: “We know that transport comes with a health warning.
“Road transport is the single biggest contributor to poor air quality and is responsible for some 80% of roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration.
“We also know that getting active by walking and cycling as part of our daily routine is good for us. It’s good for our health and saves on the cost of healthcare. It can reduce congestion, improve air quality, increase productivity and drive footfall in our town centres.
“There is no battle here – except for hearts and minds. 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% of journeys were made by motor vehicle and fewer than 2% of journeys are made by bike.
“The Government must stand up for active travel. 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.”
'Spending Review is a key test'
Ben Still, managing director of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and lead board member for active travel at the Urban Transport Group, added: “We strongly welcome this call from MPs for greater leadership from across Whitehall departments on the urgent task of shifting more short journeys from the car to by foot or by bike.
“The forthcoming Spending Review will provide a key test of the Government’s commitment to providing transport authorities with the long term and stable funding for local transport they need to invest in schemes which will get more people walking and cycling.
“Walking and cycling have a key role to play in the imperative of reducing carbon emissions from transport, as well as offering wider health, social and economic benefits to people and communities.
“With the right funding deal and leadership from national Government, we can ensure active travel delivers a win-win for people and the planet.”