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Active Travel England Swings into Action (Sort Of)

Chris Boardman, image by TFGM
Chris Boardman, image by TFGM

Active Travel England has swung into action – sort of.

There was a semi-announcement of the Active Travel Fund 3 allocations on Saturday, and good active travel advocacy from Chris Boardman in a Peter Walker article on the same day.

Active Travel Fund 3 (ATF3)

Local authorities made bids for ATF3 money in Summer 2021, and have been waiting a long time to hear whether they were successful.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) made an odd and disappointing bid for ATF3 money, which included a request for a large sum for Ripon. There has as yet been no formal announcement as to whether it was successful or not, but councils themselves have already been told.

For example we know that Sheffield, Bradford and Calderdale won funding for infrastructure, and York was successful with a bid for cycle parking in the city centre.

Saturday’s DfT/ATE semi-announcement contained lots of enthusiastic words.

‘Millions of people across the country will benefit from cleaner air and cheaper ways to travel and keep active, thanks to £200 million of government funding for new walking and cycling schemes across England announced today (14 May 2022).’

DfT press release

The press release is misleading: the DfT is trying to pretend that this is brand new money, when in reality it is the allocation of funding announced for the first time in June 2021.

This government is largely focused on presentation, not delivery. The country is going down the drain because of their awful policies and behaviour, but all they care about is how it’s presented on TV and in the newspapers.

How can we get the maximum value out of the ATF, they ask themselves? We’ll announce it as many times as possible.

The DfT’s active travel unit is about the only bright spot on the goverment’s otherwise dark record of dishonesty, divisiveness and incompetence. I hope ATE will thrive long after Mr Johnson’s mob are gone; they won’t have many other achievements to celebrate.

I don’t want to see active travel announcements dragged into the government’s misleading propaganda agenda, but this press release infantilises readers by failing to season the cheerleading with any facts.

  • which fund it is talking about? It doesn’t say
  • which local authorities won funding? 19 of them, but only three are specified
  • which projects were funded, and how much was each given? A few example figures are stated, but there is no detailed breakdown

Chris Boardman’s Advocacy

Moving on to more positive things, in a Peter Walker article, Chris Boardman demonstrated once again that he is a very effective advocate for active travel.

Boardman said that ATE will help local authorities navigate culture wars and media controversies over traffic schemes.

‘We want to give people back what they’ve had taken away. We want people to feel ok letting their kids to be able to walk to school. If you ask people if they’d like to be able to walk to school, a huge percentage say yes. We’ve been asking the wrong questions.’

chris boardman

Boardman made a video to accompany the announcement.

Helping Councils with Designs

Boardman also told Peter Walker that ATE would help councils with designs for walking and cycling schemes. ‘If an authority hasn’t even got an outline design, we can help them with one – even do it for them.’

Scarred as I am by abysmal design standards in North Yorkshire, that’s music to my ears. I wish ATE would design all the schemes here.

‘Anyone who has got the courage but hasn’t got the resources, we can instantly add value. If a council says ‘we haven’t got room for a scheme’, we’ve got the country’s leading experts who can say ‘you could do it this way’. We’re coming with bags of solutions.

I want local councillors to feel good about doing harder stuff, standing up for something. There’s a fear of change, and a lot of that is about the messaging. But what this is about, ultimately, is making nicer places to live. Everyone has lost sight of that and just thinks something is being taken away. But we’re giving something back.

Also the question that isn’t asked is: if you don’t do this then what happens when the roads are full up? We’ve got an extra 20bn miles being driven around homes just the last 10 years. If we don’t do these things you think are difficult, what’s your suggestion? When you do ask this, it stops people in their tracks.’

chris boardman

2030 Goal

Transport Decarbonisation Plan 50% goal
Transport Decarbonisation Plan 50% goal

ATE’s remit is for 50% of all trips in towns and cities in England to be walked or cycled by 2030. This goal comes from the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Boardman says, ‘If you want to address climate change, and you’ve got eight years to do it, then buses, bikes and walking are the only tools you’ve practically got to make that happen. That’s it. And buses don’t work unless you make space for them.’

The setting up of ATE is very exciting, as is the fact that Boardman and Brian Deegan are involved with it. Do they have the resources to achieve the 2030 goal, and are they on track?

Active Travel England Swings into Action (Sort Of)

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