Better leadership and significantly more funding needed to get public cycling and walking more
A lack of leadership, funding and ambition have contributed to poor outcomes of the Welsh Government's flagship Active Travel Act according to a cross-party group of Assembly Members.
The National Assembly's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee said that it considers the lack of strategic leadership at both Welsh Government and local authority levels to be responsible for the lack of progress made on active travel to date. The Committee calls on the Welsh Government to strengthen its leadership on the issue and to make clear its expectations from local authorities on the matter.
The Committee welcomes the Cabinet Secretary's announcement of an additional £60 million for active travel over three years. However, although this brings spend in this area to around £10 per head per year, this still falls short of the Committee's recommendation of £17-20 per head per year of capital and revenue funding. The Committee says that this should also be a recurring annual budget line to provide reassurance to local authorities of the Welsh Government's longer term commitment to active travel.
These recommendations arise from the Committee's post-legislative scrutiny of the Active Travel (Wales) Act five years on since it was introduced.
The Committee has also said that the Welsh Government should use current mechanisms such as planning guidance, the 21st Century Schools programme and the forthcoming Metro system to ensure that active travel requirements are included in any new infrastructure projects.
Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, Russell George AM, said:
"The Active Travel Act sought to transform the way people in Wales travel over short distances by facilitating better ways of cycling and walking over using the car. However, static and falling numbers of people cycling and walking in Wales shows that limited progress has been made.
"The ambition of the Act was never going to be delivered in a few years, but it certainly cannot be realised through the actions and goodwill of a few dedicated cycling officers. That's why the Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to learn lessons on progress to date, provide better leadership and much higher levels of funding to ensure that the original ambitions of the Act are realised.
"By putting in place these fundamental elements we can get more people travelling actively, which has the potential to deliver cross cutting benefits not only for the Welsh Government, but also the individual and wider society."
The Committee made a total of 24 recommendations including:
That the Welsh Government should work with professional bodies for developers and civil engineers, local authorities and the Welsh Government's own staff to tackle the cultural barriers to implementing active travel guidance, particularly through training and culture change management;
That the Welsh Government should use the infrastructure projects it is delivering to showcase the innovative active travel approaches it expects to see from local authorities;
That the Welsh Government should revise its statutory guidance to include co-production as a minimum standard for the delivery of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, involving stakeholders not only in the identification of an issue, but enabling them to be a part of the solution;
As obesity is a growing problem in the health sector, active travel and active lifestyles are a relatively low cost way to tackle this problem. As such the Welsh Government should direct Public Health Wales to prioritise the promotion of active travel and behaviour change as one of its key aims for the remainder of this Assembly/next three years.