(Title Image: www.local-transport-projects.co.uk)
Back in June, the Economy & Infrastructure Committee published a report on the successes and failures of the Active Travel Act 2013. The Act was introduced to improve the range of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists as well as set all local authorities a task of mapping out future active travel routes.
The report was fairly critical, citing a lack of leadership, lack of funding, confusion over official guidance and hard-to-change attitudes amongst the public.
Committee Chair, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), told the chamber there were two main barriers to active travel: safety and a lack of infrastructure. Spending on active travel was said to half what it should be and the Committee recommended this be boosted to around £20-per-head.
Other AMs criticised the Welsh Government’s response to the report, seemingly only “accepting in principle” some of the Committee’s recommendations in what is supposed to be a flagship law.
“The Active Travel Act provides us with….a salutary lesson about the absence of a dynamic in Welsh politics….we pass a series of good intentions written into law that have wide consensus, because….the reality of Welsh politics is that we share many of the same values—it’s the implementation gap that’s the problem.”
– Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E, & Dinefwr)
Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) – who’s championed active travel both inside and outside the Senedd – said:
“What I’ve found most depressing about this inquiry….is it’s the same issues that have been coming up time and time again for the decade or more.
….And I must say I was quite depressed reading the Government’s response to the report….the response officials have put forward makes you think that they’re doing it all, they’ve got it cracked. And we know from the evidence we’ve received they’re not doing it all; we haven’t got it cracked.”
– Lee Waters AM
Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) believed the South Wales Metro was a perfect excuse to properly integrate active travel with public transport, with rail stations becoming walking and cycling hubs.
“I would strongly argue that, for the ambition of the Active Travel Act to be realised, we really do need flagship schemes that demonstrate Welsh Government commitment to the spirit of the Act.”
– Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central), not for the first time, criticised parents who drive their children short distances to school, while John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) called for a nationwide expansion of 20mph zones.
In reply, Economy & Transport Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), thought pervasive advertising that encouraged a view that roads are unsafe has led to increasing use of vehicles (like SUVs) which, ironically, make roads less safe. He also suggested that AMs and civic leaders should practice what they preach on active travel.
“It’s my firm belief that the Active Travel Act is a great success. It’s something that I am particularly proud of and I don’t think we should underestimate the impact that the Act has already had…..since its commencement four years ago, the Act has led to the systematic development of plans for safe walking and cycling networks for all larger and medium-sized towns and villages in Wales.”
– Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates AM
An additional £60million will be invested over the next two years on active travel and Safe Routes to School schemes. A new transport strategy is also being developed with walking and cycling “as a focus”.
See also: A BBC Wales report, shown during the session, of Committee members trying out active travel for themselves on a short journey in Cardiff. Top Gear it ain’t.