Get involved: Cycle on the Senedd
On Wednesday 2 October campaigners from across Wales will take part in the Cycle on the Senedd to lobby the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd) and Government for more and better investment in active travel.
Active Travel really is a thing in Wales. We have a law for it, the Active Travel Act. It was introduced in 2013, with lots of political hype, to make “walking and cycling the most normal and natural way of getting about”. The alliance of cycling, environment and health groups that organise Cycle on the Senedd is really pleased that we have the law, but it’s not enough. The depressing truth is that since the law was passed, rates of active travel in Wales have fallen.
The depressing truth is that since the Active Travel Act was passed, rates of active travel in Wales have fallen.
The main reason is that Wales just hasn’t been investing in good infrastructure.
Until recently, the Welsh Government was spending about £5 per head on active travel. Last year this went up to £10 per head. But that is still only half of what Scotland is spending and what the National Assembly for Wales’ Transport Committee says needs to be spent.
Wales has a sustainable development law - the Well-being of Future Generations Act. That Act sets out seven national goals around health, the environment, the economy and communities. Active travel contributes to the achievement of all seven of those national goals. Yet when it comes to spending, walking and cycling always loses out to car travel, even though it is car travel that causes many of the problems the goals were put in place to solve.
Cycle on the Senedd wants to change this and we believe the only way we can do it is by getting firm commitments from Welsh Government and Welsh Assembly Members on levels of spending and on how the money will be spent. We need to convince politicians that walking and cycling really could be the answer to many of Wales most pressing problems. But it will only be an answer if it is properly funded and delivered.
That’s why next Wednesday we will be aiming to show as many politicians as possible that there are lots of people in Wales who are determined to make them deliver on the promises of the Active Travel Act.
There are good things happening in Wales. We have secured major changes in Planning Policy Wales that should, in the future, mean that active travel infrastructure becomes an integral part of all new developments.
We have a promise from Welsh Government to make 20mph the default speed limit in urban areas and to tackle pavement parking.
Wales has a new publicly accountable rail franchise, run by Transport for Wales, that is committed to integrating rail and active travel.
We also have a new Deputy Minister in charge of active travel, Lee Waters AM, who really gets it.
But there are still too many basic issues that Wales doesn’t get right.
Welsh Government has a school building programme, 21st Century Schools, that builds new schools but doesn’t accept any responsibility to link them with infrastructure that would allow children to get there by bike or on foot. To make matters worse, cycle training in schools only reaches around 20% of pupils.
The Active Travel Act is meant to ensure all new highway developments enhance provision for walking and cycling, yet Welsh Government is building a Caernarfon bypass that seriously damages walking and cycling routes. And perhaps our biggest challenge is the impact of austerity on local authorities, who have the main responsibility for delivering the infrastructure. Because active travel is often not seen as a priority the number of staff delivering on walking and cycling has been cut to the bone.
It’s not just about money.
Wales does not have a proper plan in place for making active travel happen. Our national targets are a joke.
Wales does not have a proper plan in place for making active travel happen. Our national targets are a joke. The level of ambition has moved from the Act’s “normal and natural way of getting about” to a cycling target of “10% of people cycling once a week”. That’s why, as well as a doubling in investment, we are also lobbying for a co-produced, evidence based active travel strategy that clearly sets out what needs to be achieved; by when; and who is going to make it happen.
The role of cycle campaigners has never been more important. Important because society’s future depends on changing the way we travel. Important because with all the financial and other pressures on public services unless someone is constantly making the case for the detailed changes that need to be made, they just won’t happen.
So if you can be in Cardiff on 2 October, join us for a ride down the Taff Trail from Pedal Power to the steps of the Senedd and make your voice heard.
Your voice really does matter.