England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty is one of four senior figures to become part of a new advisory panel, Active Travel England.
Whitty will work alongside West Midlands’ Mayor Andy Street, chair of the Office of Rail and Road Declan Collier, and Arup’s global transport leader Isabel Dedring.
National active travel commissioner, Chris Boardman, said: “Active travel is a key part of achieving so many of the Government’s top priorities, so we want to link up with those agendas from the very start.
“Providing low-cost, healthy travel options to get to schools, shops and workplaces will revitalise high streets across the country and help us decarbonise at the same time.
“Active Travel England was created to deliver healthy, sustainable transport growth, and I’m delighted we now have such incredible experts to help us get the job done.”
Cycling UK has welcomed the news of Whitty appointment. Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “While the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is hopefully behind us, the obesity crisis which drains NHS resource and costs billions has not gone away.
“Cycling could be one of the miracle pills to help us through it, so it’s fantastic to see Professor Sir Chris Whitty’s appointment by Active Travel England. Our hope has to be Government will recognise the wider benefits cycling, just as Sir Chris has, and in its forthcoming Halloween mini-budget doesn’t cut active travel funding.
“Only last week the Department for Transport admitted it needed to increase current levels from £3.8 billion to £4.4 billion to meet the Government’s own targets for getting more people cycling by 2025.”
The advisory panel will meet quarterly with a mix of online and in-person meetings. The appointments have been made on a voluntary basis, with expenses paid where applicable. The first meeting with take place in late October.
Active travel minister Baroness Vere said: “This new advisory panel will be key to supporting the Government’s ambition to get more people walking, wheeling and cycling by transforming active travel infrastructure across the country.
“Better infrastructure will not only improve connections to employment, education and local services but improve our mental and physical wellbeing and help to level up the country. I look forward to working with Sir Chris, Andy, Declan and Isabel to achieve this.”
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Whitty said: “Exercise improves health and Active Travel England’s mission is shared by the health service. We all want to see more people incorporating active travel into their day as a way to keep mentally and physically fit.
Street added: “Active Travel England will be best placed to succeed as a delivery agency if it closely collaborates with local Mayors as well as both Combined and Local Authorities. That’s why I’m looking forward to helping ensure that ATE can make a real and rapid difference across England.
“Enabling more local trips to be taken on foot or on wheels can improve the journey experience, encourage a healthier lifestyle and help us to tackle the climate emergency. Increasing walking and cycling uptake is central to our vision to establish a truly integrated transport network here in the West Midlands and can support local economic growth by breathing new life into our high streets.
Dedring said: “Delivering a step change in active travel requires focus and determination, but it also requires attention to detail, meaningful engagement with communities and their real needs, and integration with the wider transport network.
“The UK is seen as a leader in many aspects of progressive transport policy and has a fantastic chance through Active Travel England to retain its position as a leader in this rapidly developing area.”
Collier said: “Making local trips, either on foot or on two wheels, is a great way to boost physical health and also mental wellbeing. For those wanting to do their walking or cycling further afield, England’s rail and road networks will get you there.
“I look forward to getting started and working together with the other panel members to bring about positive change in people’s lives.”