‘Now not tomorrow’ – a stark warning on active travel funding

08.11 | 8 October 2019 | | | 11 comments

A coalition of active travel groups has repeated its call for an immediate doubling of Government funding for walking and cycling.

Responding to a new report from the Transport Committee, the Walking and Cycling Alliance* says only ‘a tiny fraction’ of the Government’s current transport spend is dedicated to active travel.

The Transport Committee report, published on 4 October, recommends the Government sets more ambitious targets for increasing levels of cycling and walking.

The report also calls on the Government to increase funding for active travel, a move which would help local authorities to ‘make active travel a priority’.

The Walking and Cycling Alliance says current funding for cycling and walking is estimated at £7 per person in England, equating to approximately 2% of total transport spending.

It wants funding for infrastructure and programmes to increase to £17 per person annually immediately, and £34 per person by 2025.

Joe Irvin, chief executive of Living Streets, said: “Walking and cycling have huge benefits to our health, but also help reduce road congestion, greenhouse gases and air pollution across the UK. The Government needs to double investment in active travel now, not tomorrow.

“Investment is currently only 2% of Government transport spend – a tiny fraction. The Government has already admitted its current policies will only deliver a third of what is needed to meet its cycling target.”

*The Walking and Cycling Alliance is made up of the Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Ramblers and Sustrans.



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    The implications of travel and transport by the authorities is a journey with a purpose, either going to or taking something to a destination. Horse riding by the authorities is seen as a recreational activity so they have not included it. This is wrong as riders often use the carriageway and are possibly more vulnerable than cyclists and motorcyclists as they have to control a large animal.

    Peter Wilson, Chichester
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    Equestrian groups are missing from the list on this “Alliance”! Why? As per the Active Travel debate in Westminster, and other related policy statements, this policy does include Equestrians, therefore your Alliance is incomplete without suitable representation from at least British Horse Society and probably other equestrian interest groups too.

    Throwing public investment money at “Walking and Cycling” without due consideration of Equestrians’ needs has already proved in my area that it creates a negative impact for horse riders by, for example, removing their right to use a grassy verge [after “upgrade” to shared Pedestrian/Cycle path] and forcing them onto a dangerous rural road, now with the added danger of two-way fast cyclists also passing on their inside. Of course the horse riders would prefer not to use the road at all, but the nature of the fragmented Bridleways network makes it a necessary evil. There is in fact no danger posed to sensible, considerate cyclists from having to share any path with horse riders (whom they would find they only ever come across “off peak”, not at commuter times) but there *is* a grave danger to horse riders from being excluded from such paths.

    While of course nobody is expecting to commute by horse, the Active Travel agenda is not just about commuting, it includes all leisure journeys too and thus includes horse riding, which is a highly active and healthy pursuit enjoyed by many many thousands of mostly females. Sustrans’ own figures in their “Paths For Everyone” report confirm that nearly half of all journeys on the NCN network are for leisure anyway; also the vast majority of cyclists by miles ridden are male.

    Let us make sure that any additional investment in the infrastructure is truly “For Everyone” and be sure to include Equestrians in this Alliance.

    Miranda Fyfe, Cambridge
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    Possibly horse-riding was excluded because it is not, strictly speaking, active travel which implies physical activity/fitness as with cycling and walking. I am sure there are benefits in terms of mental well-being from the recreational pleasure in riding, but I don’t think the authorities see it as a viable means of non-motorised travel in the same way as walking and/or cycling.

    On the subject of more provisions for ‘active travel’, as an occasional walker, runner and cyclist and having lived in the city and in a rural area, I have never felt deterred or discouraged from doing any of these activities due to the environment, or lack of ‘provision’ for these modes of travel, by the authorities.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (5) | Disagree (11)

    Many of the walking and cycling routes will be used recreationally, not just for commuting. So please include horse riding on these off-road paths. We note that cycling groups are quite happy to share with horses on bridleways and even promote bridleways as cycle routes, so there is no excuse.

    Janice, Newbury
    Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

    Around 72% of cyclists are male and 85% of horse riders are female. (Sport England and British Horse Society figures). Failing to address the need for safe off-road routes for horse riders – and carriage drivers – has implications beyond physical safety, it’s not giving people the same consideration based on their chosen activity.
    It’s very important to keep everyone safe on our roads and both these groups are vulnerable – squashy and easily damaged. Traffic is faster now than it ever was and drivers are tending to be less aware of their own and other’s safety, less educated about passing horses and sometimes they drive dangerously and inconsiderately (and even abusively) when they meet horses on the roads.
    Horse riders are just ordinary people who enjoy their hobby. Carriage drivers include those who are less able-bodied, families with children and people who could otherwise not get out and enjoy the countryside.
    Please include horses in your off-road access schemes?

    Please include

    Fiona Powell, Ipswich
    Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

    Sadly once again horse riders are excluded from discussions. We are also vulnerable road users at risk on the roads and I am frankly amazed that we are ignored by an organisation supposedly championing road safety in the UK.

    Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

    Why on earth are horse riders not mentioned in active travel? The health benefits of riding is tremendous. On our increasingly busy roads, this activity is extremely dangerous. Riders need protection. Many riders have to use these busy roads in order to get to bridleways, visit friends, go to local shops. The bridleway network is extremely fragmented, with many bridleways leading to busy roads and downgraded footpaths. Why are riders always ignored and left out of these schemes when they are the most vulnerable road users of all. Most are women and children. By leaving them out of this you are guilty of condemning them to a ridiculous amount of danger. Most cyclists are men and they are included.

    Diane South, Pwllheli
    Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

    I would appreciate the inclusion of horse riders and drivers in this planning and funding. We form a huge group of mainly women and children who gain enormous health benefits from our activity, put £ms of pounds into the economy and need safer means of using our horses as transport. If public funding is to be used for to assist walkers and cyclists then surely tax paying horse riders should be included too?

    chris rankin, carmarthen
    Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

    Active Travel – Yes, but please DO NOT FORGET many of these routes are bridleways, so equestrian use MUST NOT be overlooked. As a way of improving mental health & physical fitness, it is AS important as cycling & walking, but is in grave danger of being overlooked.

    Sue Hamley-Richards, Clunderwen
    Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

    It would be wonderful to see more cycle lanes but please, please could we have provision for equestrian travel too? Surely horse riding and driving is classed as active travel, and yet there is no mention of it in the article. Riders would benefit from linked bridleways, longer distance routes, as well as maintenance of existing off road routes. We also need other road users to understand the needs of vunerable groups, including equestrians.

    Nikola King, Swindon
    Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

    Can I ask why horse riders are noticably missing off this ‘alliance’. Riding is a huge leisure activity promoting good health and activity the same as leisure riding and yet we are constantly forgotten about. From a safety point of view it is essential that ANY new routes that are accessible by cyclists are also listed as allowable for horses! We are being slowly forced onto using faster and faster unsuitable roads and many old routes are now being closed to us such as towpaths and permissive routes, whilst still being accessible to cyclists due to pressure on their behalf from groups like this. PLEASE ‘harness’ our additional lobbying power and use it to benefit us all!!

    liz, matlock
    Agree (13) | Disagree (1)

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