William Eichler 04 March 2020

Public is ‘supportive’ of plans to invest in cycling, study shows

Over half of residents in major urban areas across the UK support more investment in cycling, new research reveals.

The Bike Life report, published by the charity Sustrans and 12 major cities and urban areas, found that 58% of urban residents want more investment in cycling, compared to 42% for driving.

It also found that more than one in two (55%) of residents agreed with the statement that there are too many people driving in their area.

Nearly 60% of residents agree that restricting through-traffic on local residential streets would make their area a better place to live and work.

The report, which is the UK’s largest assessment of cycling in cities, includes an independent survey of 16,923 adult residents, aged 16 and over, on their travel habits and attitudes as well as data on the health, economic and environmental benefits of cycling in each city.

Around 56% support the idea of charging more polluting vehicles entering city centres if the financial proceeds were used to help fund public transport, walking and cycling services.

Last month, the Government announced plans to bring forward its phase-out of diesel and petrol vehicles by five years to 2035, to help curb the climate crisis and reach a net-zero emission economy by 2050.

Yet Sustrans warns that existing plans lack meaningful investment for walking and cycling. Modelling shows we will still need to reduce motor vehicle use by up to 60% by 2030 to achieve carbon targets.

‘The climate crisis is the greatest environmental and health challenge of the 21st century,’ said Daisy Narayanan, director of Urbanism at Sustrans.

‘With road transport being one of the major sources of greenhouse gasses and air pollutants, it’s time we end car-centric planning which has shaped our cities and towns for decades and reprioritise our streets towards people.

‘Many cities are taking action to reduce car trips and make it more convenient for people to walk and cycle. Our report shows the public is supportive of these plans.

‘Ahead of crucial climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow, we urge the UK Government to show leadership and make a step-change in investment for cycling and walking, including protected cycle lanes, and adopt policies to support more people to switch from driving to walking and cycling for shorter journeys.

‘This will help cities and towns to reduce car use and meet the national obligations under the Climate Change Act.’

Birmingham City Council is currently consulting on its draft Birmingham Transport Plan. This proposes discouraging through trips by private vehicles and creating an environment where walking, cycling and public transport are the main means of getting around.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham’s cabinet member for Transport & Environment commented: ‘As a city, we have been over-reliant on private cars for too long. The more journeys people take by walking and cycling, the more we will improve air quality and our health, and the more we will reduce congestion.

‘We need to fundamentally change the way people and goods move around the city, which involves redressing the balance and building a future in which the car is no longer seen as king.’

Responding to Sustrans’ report, Chris Boardman, walking and cycling commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: ‘The main thing holding people back, is the lack of safe, attractive space to cycle, which is why we designed an 1,800 mile cycling and walking network to span Greater Manchester and connect every community.

‘The benefits from enabling people to leave the car at home are potentially enormous but we can’t deliver the country’s biggest urban cycling and walking network without the Government’s backing.

‘Last month, we took our detailed plan to Government and asked them for the sustained investment required to fully deliver this transformational project so we can reap the huge benefits in health, congestion reduction and improved air quality.

‘It’s an investment that will save the region billions. I think the real question, is not whether Government will back us, but can they afford not to? We're currently awaiting their response.’

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