It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey. Active travel is an integral part of our arsenal when it comes to tackling climate change, but not enough people are involved. Cycling makes up just 2% of trips taken in the UK, and in a European Commission report on rates of cycling in 28 countries, the UK feebly features in 24th place. How can we change that? We must see widespread reform and structural overhaul.
With headlines this weekend showing that eight people were killed in London in five days, it is clear that better infrastructure is required. We need separated and dedicated cycle routes. We need adequate pedestrian bridges and underpass tunnels. As a colleague said, active travel should be for the many, not the brave. We need major reform that puts the UK on a level playing field and ahead of European leaders in active travel.
Following work undertaken with local organisations such as Portsmouth Cycle Forum, and from cycling around my city—I do not drive; I use my Brompton to get around Portsmouth—I have seen at first hand how disjointed infrastructure can be a major obstacle in getting people out and active. While the increases in funding for cycling and walking infrastructure are welcome, the problem faced in Portsmouth is that the local authority, which has seen unprecedented cuts under the Government’s reign of austerity, does not have the capacity to go searching for poorly signposted funding. As the Local Government Association said,
“Too often funding is provided in the form of short-term capital grants linked to bidding processes with strict criteria. This stop-start funding…doesn’t allow councils to develop long-term sustained plans.”
I ask the Minister: why have the Government not yet provided any dedicated funding to deliver local cycling and walking infrastructure plans? When will they begin to do so?
Portsmouth’s geography and conditions would make it an ideal trailblazer for active travel. It could be a world leader, as is demonstrated by the ambitions in our document, “A City to Share”, which I urge the Minister to read. It is clear that as a society we will be better, healthier and greener if we properly invest in walking and cycling infrastructure. I therefore urge the Minister to visit Portsmouth and meet with the Portsmouth Cycle Forum.