New scheme to create national network of walking and cycling experts in England
The UK government’s new £32.9 million funding will help accelerate walking and cycling schemes across England, with a key focus on making active travel a safe and accessible option for all.
The UK government has announced that local councils will benefit from skills training and a boost to green jobs due to a £32.9 million scheme that had been launched on 2 January 2023, which will enable them to develop thousands of well thought-through local walking and cycling schemes, co-created by the communities that will use them.
The investment will help local councils in England design, develop and consult on high-quality active travel schemes that work for residents and consider the local road network. These could include new school safety zones to encourage active travel, improved walking and cycling infrastructure on local high streets, as well as new cycle and wheelchair paths.
These measures aim to get more people of all groups walking and cycling and to help address the barriers that exist. Surveys show the number one issue putting women off cycling is how safe they feel on the roads, with 79 per cent of women supporting more protected cycle lanes being built. Safety will therefore be the major focus for the new designs and routes.
This funding will support local authorities to maximise active travel investment by enhancing their technical skills. Local councils will be investing in resources dedicated to co-creating schemes that communities want. Activities being funded include network planning, public engagement exercises and bespoke training for councillors and staff. The fund could also see hundreds of new green jobs created across England.
Active Travel Minister Jesse Norman said: “Leaving the car and walking and cycling instead is an easy way to get fit, save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Better designed schemes, which take into account the views of local people will help deliver improvements that have widespread local support. Skills training and local community engagement will help local authorities to make active travel an attractive choice for getting around.”
Developing teams that lead active travel programmes will create more cost-effective and well-targeted projects. Local authorities will learn how to enhance their engagement with residents, businesses and other road users to ensure schemes are delivered with local support.
National Active Travel Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said: “If we want to enable hundreds of thousands more people to walk, wheel and cycle for everyday trips then we need to deliver high-quality schemes that make it feel easy, fun and safe. Of course, ensuring the right technical skills are in place at a local level is vital but so is engagement.”
The funding will also be used to engage under-represented groups and enable more children to walk, wheel and cycle to school. In addition, community engagement programmes will give individuals the confidence to walk and cycle safely through cycle training, school walking groups and bike rental schemes.
Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said: “This funding is crucial in ensuring that travelling actively is a safe and accessible option for all, particularly as we work towards the government’s goal of 50 per cent of all journeys in towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030.”
Furthermore, the ‘capability fund’ will support local councils across the country to train and retain local engineers and planners, creating a skilled active travel workforce that will be able to collaborate effectively with local communities and conduct high-quality engagement and consultation sessions.
As well as enabling local councils to hire and retain skilled professionals, this investment will deliver specialised training, driving up skills and ensuring that consistent, high-quality schemes are set up across England to give people truly attractive active travel choices.
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