A lack of ‘leadership, funding and ambition’ are three reasons behind a failure to increase levels of walking and cycling in Wales since 2013, according to a new report.
The report scrutinises the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 – introduced by the Welsh Government to ‘transform local communities by making active travel a reality’.
The Act places a requirement on local authorities to ‘continuously improve facilities and routes for walkers and cyclists’ and to ‘prepare maps identifying current and potential future routes for their use’. It also requires new road schemes to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at design stage.
According to figures published by the Welsh Government in January 2018, 61% of adults walked at least once a week for ‘active travel purposes’ in 2016/17 – a figure that has fallen from 66% in 2013-14.
During 2016/17, 44% of children actively traveled to primary school, down from 50% in 2013-14.
The new report, produced by the National Assembly for Wales’ Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, sets out a series of recommendations – including a call for greater leadership from the Welsh Government.
The report also calls on the Welsh Government to work with professional bodies, such as developers and civil engineers, local authorities and the Welsh Government’s own staff, to tackle the cultural barriers to implementing active travel.
Russell George AM, chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, said: “When introduced, the Active Travel (Wales) 2013 Act was welcomed by many as significant and potentially life changing legislation for the people of Wales.
“However, nearly five years after the Act became law, the numbers of people walking and cycling to work or for other essential journeys are static, and in the case of children travelling to school, have reduced.
“The committee’s inquiry found that the desire to deliver step change in this area has not diminished, but a lack of leadership, funding and ambition have contributed to the poor outcome to date.
“This has been compounded by a skills gaps and a so far missed opportunity to foster culture and behavioural change.
“The Act was never going to change Wales overnight, but there are lessons to be learnt about delivery to date.
“This report and the recommendations contained in it seek to challenge the Welsh Government to deliver a generational change in this key policy area.
“If Wales is to deliver on the promises made in the Act, we need to see long established behaviours start to change.
“It’s time now for the Government to change its own behaviour, show some real leadership and get the Act’s ambitions on its feet and moving.”