This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 148.
Is this a new golden age for cycling? The Covid-19 lockdown saw a tremendous increase in cycling levels and figures show that many who took up riding during the period are continuing to cycle. We’ve also seen a positive shift in political will, from the PM extolling the benefits of cycling to the government publishing a bold new vision for active travel with the Gear Change policy document and Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20 design guidelines. These publications are wide-ranging in scope; they cover headline-grabbing schemes like the £50 bike repair voucher scheme and free cycle training, but also more fundamental improvements in active transport, such as increased investment for protected cycle routes, a long-term cycling budget, new local officer posts for active travel schemes, improved legal protections for those walking and cycling and a new government body for active transport. Local authorities will be audited on performance, and high-quality sustainable transport routes must be included in all highways schemes. There’s even a Highway Code review, consulting on proposed changes which aim to improve safety for vulnerable road users.
It’s encouraging to see so many initiatives in favour of walking and cycling. Transport is fundamental to quality of life, and the health, wellbeing and social benefits of active travel are clear. These benefits should be felt equally by everyone so we need to do everything we can to ensure that cycling is truly accessible for all. We need to listen to all groups – especially those who are typically underrepresented – and integrate their experience when it comes to policy, planning, design and implementation.
Despite profound changes to life this year, motorised transport is already returning to pre-lockdown levels and continues to dominate. The shift in policy should act as a catalyst, but the pace of change is slow. It’s critical that we continue to campaign for everyone to be able to access and enjoy cycling. There is a silent majority in favour of active transport improvements and we need to gather their voices.
With mounting pressure from central government, this is certainly a golden opportunity to work for change and improve our towns and cities.
Let’s work together to make our voices heard.
Adam Jenkins & Rosie Humphrey, Camcycle editors