The Ramblers has welcomed the government’s announcement of a new £250 million fund to support more people to walk and cycle and avoid public transport during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
With our partners, the Ramblers has been calling on the government in recent weeks to support local authorities introduce measures to help with physical distancing, including widened footways, car-free walking and cycling streets. This news was therefore welcome.
Perhaps just as significant as the funding, was the publication of some new fast-tracked statutory guidance which, for the first time, tells councils to reallocate road space for significantly increased numbers of people walking and cycling. Whilst we’ve been delighted to see local authorities across the UK putting in temporary measures (which you can read about in our blog here) it’s been equally encouraging to hear many more indicating that they will be using this opportunity to trial longer-term and more permanent changes to their streets, in order to improve them for walking (see for example, London’s plans to ban cars from its busiest streets).
The emergency fund will be the first wave of a £2 billion investment commitment over the next 5 years. This is part of a £5bn fund for walking, cycling and buses, already announced but without a previous commitment to how much of this would be spent on active travel. A new Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be launched by the Prime Minster in the summer with further measures to transform walking and cycling. We are already in conversations with the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure the revised strategy really benefits people walking, as well as cycling.
In response to the announcement, the Walking and Cycling Alliance said:
“Public transport systems are vital but will not be able to operate at full capacity for some time due to social distancing. Our towns and cities can’t cope with the increased private car journeys this could cause. Instead we must increase walking and cycling. This won’t just help with social distancing. This will help with tackling the climate crisis, air pollution and public health, decreasing the burden on our NHS.
“This funding is a first step that allows more local authorities to put temporary measures in place so more people can move around safely and actively as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.
“As we begin to rebuild after this devastating Covid-19 pandemic, we encourage all Local Authorities to use this funding as soon as possible to make the changes needed. It is imperative going forward that we don’t solve one crisis by perpetuating others and instead create healthier, happier and greener places that we all want to live in.”
The Walking and Cycling Alliance is made up of the Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, The Ramblers and Sustrans.
The Ramblers ‘Charter for Walking Neighbourhoods’
At the Ramblers we are working to make our neighbourhoods green and walkable in order to promote good physical health, mental health and wellbeing. Walking neighbourhoods help combat poor air quality and encourage people to get outside and be active.
Find out more about our Charter for Walking Neighbourhoods, and our work to achieve it.