Industry reacts as NAO report shows Government not on track to meet cycling targets

A National Audit Office (NAO) report released today, Wednesday, June 7, has revealed that the Government is not on track to meet its objectives to get more people cycling, wheeling and walking.

The report states that the Department for Transport’s (DfT) progress suggests it will not meet its targets of doubling urban cycling journeys to 1.6 billion stages by 2025.

The Government’s own target of 46% of urban journeys being walked, wheeled or cycled in the next two years is now impossible to reach, the report finds, despite this being a cornerstone of Boris Johnson’s Gear Change vision of 2020.

Boris Johnson announced his Gear Change vision in 2020 Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

It also found that despite the targets to increase the numbers of people walking and cycling; and the percentage of children aged five to ten walking to school – all activity levels are now lower than when the objectives were set in 2017.

Campaign groups have also criticised the Government’s underfunding of active travel as “missing an easy win”, suggesting that commitments laid out in the current Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy are now void.

Xavier Brice, CEO at walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said: “This report reveals that active travel objectives are in tatters, and only serves to highlight that long-term and ring-fenced investment can transform lives, if done well.”

The report also said that the DfT does not yet know enough about what has been achieved by active travel schemes delivered by local authorities, and has not been able to influence the local delivery of schemes consistently. This has led to patchy delivery of active travel schemes

Steve Garidis, executive director of the Bicycle Association (BA), said: “Sustained, long-term investment in cycling – including support to grow the cycling industry as a strategic transport industry – is the only viable way to achieve the Government’s statutory targets.

“The cycling industry is standing by, ready to work with the Government to accelerate decarbonisation, deliver green jobs and open up access to mobility.

Members of the Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA) including the campaign groups The Bikeability Trust, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Sustrans and the Ramblers, welcomed the report, and are now calling for the Government to publish its own evidence for the funding required to achieve its objectives for 2025 and 2030 targets.

Emily Cherry, Chief Executive of the Bikeability Trust, said: “This report is a warning sign that we are failing to equip our children with the skills they need to live a greener, healthier and happier life.”

James Metcalfe, co-founder of British e-bike brand Volt, added: “To know that the effects of the Government’s significant cuts to active transport funding are being exacerbated by minimal local oversight of expenditure and unambitious policies is disappointing.

“The DfT should be looking to take immediate action to resolve the several billion-pound gap between the government’s committed spending and the investment required to meet its targets, and to empower Active Travel England to closely monitor how this money is spent.”

DfT established Active Travel England to address long standing issues relating to the standard of infrastructure and to support improvements in the capability of local authorities.

Read more: Government allocates £200 million of active travel funding, but industry calls for further support

The report concluded by saying that Active Travel England has the potential to be a catalyst for increasing walking, wheeling and cycling.

It reads: “Active Travel England has made good early progress and is well-placed to address many of the issues that can lead to poor quality active travel schemes.

“Maintaining this early momentum from the set-up of Active Travel England will be important to securing the benefits for transport, health and the environment and achieving value for money from government’s investment in active travel.”

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