Welsh Assembly members pass the Active Travel Bill
"Wales should be proud of this Bill" was the message from Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths. It is due to receive Royal Assent (i.e. it will become an Act) in October, and will then be brought into effect early next year.
The Bill places a duty 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. They will have to do this within a year of the Bill coming into effect.
It also requires highway authorities to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at an early stage in designing new roads. Councils will be required to connect key sites such as hospitals, schools and shopping areas with traffic-free routes and cycle lanes.
However concerns have been expressed both by local councils and by campaigners, including CTC, about whether sufficient funding has been dedicated to cycling to ensure the Act's aims are fulfilled. CTC also believes that action will need to be taken to reduce speeding and speed limits on both urban streets and rural lanes.
Despite these concerns, CTC has strongly supported the campaign for the Bill, led by Sustrans Cymru. Specifically CTC been involved in the working group which is preparing guidelines for local authorities to ensure high standards for cycle-friendly planning and design. CTC had insisted on the need for these guidelines at an early stage in the campaign, to ensure that the Bill results in genuinely high standards of cycle provision.
We want to make walking and cycling the most natural way to get about. The Bill will require local authorities to provide maps and set out routes in a 15 year plan.
Local Government and Transport Minister Carl Sargeant.
Announcing the passing of the Bill, Local Transport Minister Carl Sargeant said it was for those who cycle as they can't afford car insurance and for those who are mobility impaired who have taken 'Pedal Power' courses.
Liberal Democrat member Eluned Parrott said, "The Active Travel Bill offers great potential to steer us towards a healthier and more environmentally friendly Wales and I have been delighted to see the way in which the Bill has evolved during its passage through the Assembly."
The Bill is an important step towards making Wales a cycling nation. What needs to follow is the practical guidance for planners and the interventions to engage people so both urban and rural communities alike can benefit from this legislation.
Ian Richardson, CTC's Senior Development Officer for Wales
According to Plaid Cymru member Dafydd Elis-Thomas: "In a situation of reduced public funding, there are obvious health gains and public spending benefits from improving the general health of the population as a result of this legislation."