Gearing up for the Governments bold Visions for Cycling and Walking infrastructure


Location: England

The Government made a statement this week on the 27th July publishing the Department for Transports latest document ‘Gear Change: A bold Vision for Cycling and Walking’.  Its aim is to seek to achieve the most radical change in travel patterns in England since the arrival of mass-motoring.  The publication of the document follows the Government’s announcement in May earlier this year that £2 billion of new investment would be provided towards cycle improvements.

The key headlines from a transport planning perspective with respect to facilitating new developments is the publication of new cycling design guidance ‘Local Transport Note 1/20 (LTN 1/20) – Cycle Infrastructure Design’ in support of the document; and that the guidance will now be enforced by a new commissioning body and inspectorate, Active Travel England.

Local Authorities and Developers are now expected to use LTN 1/20 in the design of their schemes, which is underpinned by 22 summary principles.  The key principles appear to be:

  1. Cyclists must be separated from volume traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them;
  2. Cyclists must be separated from pedestrians;
  3. Cyclists must be treated as vehicles, not pedestrians;
  4. Routes must join together; isolated stretches of good provision are of little value;
  5. Routes must be direct, logical and be intuitively understandable by all road users;
  6. Routes and schemes must take account of how users actually behave;
  7. Purely cosmetic alterations should be avoided;
  8. Barriers, such as chicane barriers and dismount signs, should be avoided;
  9. Routes should be designed only by those who have experienced the road on a cycle.

The new commissioning body and Inspectorate, Active Travel England (ATE), is anticipated to be established in the next few of months.  It is understood that one of Active Travel England’s functions will be as a statutory consultee within the planning system in all developments of over a certain threshold, and provide expert advice on ways in which such provision can be improved.  At this stage, the document does not provide clarity on the threshold values for when ATE will need to be involved.  ATE will also be a repository of expertise in scheme design, implementation and stakeholder management.

It is also understood that the £2 billion cycling budget will be held by Active Travel England, and that it will examine all applications for funding and refuse any that are not compliant with the new national standards. It will inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any which have not been completed as promised, or which have not started or finished by the stipulated times.

From next year, Active Travel England will also begin to inspect, and publish annual reports on, highway authorities, whether or not they have received funding from the Government, grading them on their performance on active travel and identifying particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians.

It is the Government’s intention that ATE will in this regard perform a similar role to Ofsted.

Other key headlines from within the document include for commencing the remaining elements of Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, allowing local authorities, rather than the police, to enforce against moving traffic offences such as disregarding one-way systems or entering mandatory cycle lanes. The Government will issue guidance to local authorities about the powers including on the importance of ensuring citizens are properly informed about them and the need for traffic signing to be properly designed and placed, so that it is clear to drivers what restrictions are in force.

The document also has a particular focus on changing travel habits for the school run, whereby 50% of primary school children and 25% of secondary school children, are transported by private motorise vehicles.

The Government also intends to choose 12 willing non-London local authorities for intensive investment in ‘mini-Holland’ schemes using the same model trialled for three outer London Boroughs.  The focus will be to replace short car trips.

The Government is also looking for at least one small or medium-sized city, which wants to create a zero-emission transport system, possibly done in conjunction with the existing competition for an all-electric bus town.

The document also sets out an ambition that aims to ensure that all the National Cycle Network routes are off-road or traffic calmed by 2040.

To assist with the modal shift to cycling, the document also advises that in combination with cycle infrastructure improvements, it will investigate new measures to promote and make long distance travelling by bike easier, with part of the journey by bus or rail.  Measures could include for the provision of additional storage space for bikes on buses and trains, and also the possible removal of the booking system for bicycle storage on trains, particularly on quieter routes.

Pegasus Group’s Transport team considers that it is laudable that the government is putting walking and cycling at the heart of the agenda. The creation of the new commissioning body and Inspectorate, ATE, will help ensure this takes place at the local level in plan making and decision taking.  It will be important in our view that guidance is applied pragmatically, not prescriptively, so as to support other government objectives for the planning process to encourage efficient use of land and delivery of housing, whilst also encouraging sustainable patterns of travel.

In terms of next steps, Pegasus Group would welcome confirmation on when precisely the new guidelines will be implemented; as well as confirmation of the timescales for the implementation of the ATE and the thresholds values for the development schemes it will be consulted upon.

This article was written by Craig Rawlinson, Senior Director for Transport, and Tony Jones, Director for Transport, in the Pegasus Group Bristol office.

For more information view the Cycle Infrastructure Design note and the Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking publication by the Department for Transport.

For further reading on this topic take a look at this article on the Forbes website.