The government said walking and cycling was good for health. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The government said walking and cycling was good for health. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Westminster government is to set up a new agency to oversee cycling and walking in England.

Active Travel England, which will be based in York, will be responsible for improving the infrastructure for cycling and walking, and will operate under the Department for Transport.

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman has been appointed interim commissioner for the body, which will also begin to inspect and publish reports on highway authorities for their performance on active travel and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians.

The government said preliminary work is already underway, scrutinising councils’ plans for active travel and supporting them to create schemes that will enable more people to walk, wheel and cycle safely.

As well as approving and inspecting schemes, ATE will help local authorities, training staff and spreading good practice in design, implementation and public engagement. It will be a statutory consultee on major planning applications to ensure that the largest new developments properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists,

The Department for Transport said Active Travel England will be responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that improve both health and air quality.

Boardman, whose mother was killed by a dangerous driver in 2016 while she was out cycling, will take up the post unpaid. He will step down as from his position in Greater Manchester where he was appointed as cycling and walking commissioner, then transport commissioner. He became one of the country’s leading figureheads for active travel and delivered the first phase of Manchester’s public transport system known as the Bee Network.

He will continue his part-time chairing of Sport England.

Boardman said: “The positive effects of high levels of cycling and walking are clearly visible in pockets around the country where people have been given easy and safe alternatives to driving.

“Perhaps most important of all, though, it makes for better places to live while helping both the NHS and our mission to decarbonise.

“The time has come to build on those pockets of best practice and enable the whole nation to travel easily and safely around their neighbourhoods without feeling compelled to rely on cars. I’m honoured to be asked to lead on this and help deliver the ambitious vision laid out in the government’s Gear Change strategy and other local transport policies.

“This will be a legacy we will be proud to leave for our children and for future generations. It’s time to make it a reality; it’s time for a quiet revolution.”

The government said it was today also announcing £5.5m of new funding for local authorities, train operators and businesses to encourage various active travel schemes, including a £300,000 top-up to e-cargo bike schemes, £3m to improve cycling infrastructure around train stations, and £2.2m to explore ‘active travel on prescription’ schemes. It added that has committed £2bn for cycling and walking over the period of this parliament.

More than 30 local authorities have received part of a £2.2m pot of Department for Transport funding for feasibility studies into creating ‘cycling and walking on prescription’ schemes. The Government said it wants active travel embedded into the established system of social subscribing, as a proven method to improve physical and mental health.

It said the feasibility studies will develop innovative projects linking local active travel, physical activity and health networks to support people to choose to make more short journeys on foot or by cycle. The pilots will be focused in areas where health inequalities are evident, or levels of physical activity are low.

Train operators will receive part of a £2m investment for 24 projects to provide more secure cycle parking facilities at 23 train stations across the country, with a further £1m spent on creating dedicated cycle routes to five stations.

Active travel minister Trudy Harrison said: “Cycling and walking is not only beneficial for our health and the environment, but can also be great fun and is a brilliant way to connect communities.

“This funding is about giving people across the country the opportunity to different forms of travel, as well as supporting local businesses with the transition to greener transport. I’m very much looking forward to working with our new active travel commissioner to improve standards for everyone.”

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