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Grassroots campaigning scores a win for cycling

By Rachel White,
Cyclists on segregated cycle path

After a week which started on empty promises, the Government surprised us all and showed real leadership when they tabled a historic Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which will help get Britain cycling.

As I sit writing this I have been reflecting back on a turbulent week, which has resulted in a fantastic win for cycling and walking infrastructure.  The reason for this win – you – the campaigner, constituent, supporter.

A week ago I wrote about how pride and ambition to increase cycling and walking in this country was not being matched by funding.

All the main political parties spoke of how they wanted to increase physical activity in this country. Labour in their public health strategy (pdf) mentioned Dutch levels of children cycling to school being at 50% when England’s is at a mere 2%. They want 50% physically active (150 minutes a week) by 2025. The Conservatives talked of cycle proofing our roads. Neither, crucially, said how they were going to fund this.

Sustrans with a group of other leading transport and health organisations have been campaigning to change this situation. We have been calling for a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to be included in the Infrastructure Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

MPs scrutinising this Bill needed to know that this is what people want.

As our YouGov poll showed, over a quarter of people would think more favourably of their MP if they campaigned for better cycling infrastructure. The cyclist vote really is important and we asked for your help in writing to your MP to back this addition to the Bill.

25 MPs added their name in support of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy amendment which was tabled by a cross party group of MPs led by Julian Huppert MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. Many I spoke to said their constituents had been in contact with them to ask for their support.

It was this pressure that forced the Government’s hand and on Thursday they backed the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

This means for the first time we will have a strategy proposed by the Secretary of State for Transport that sets out objectives to be met for cycling and walking infrastructure and the funding provided to meet these objectives. It shows leadership from Government and that they may actually be serious about increasing cycling and walking levels in this country.

Backed by the Government the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy should be voted through today (Monday 26th Jan) in Parliament and, provided the Bill passes smoothly into law, we should see a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy published once the new Government is in place after May this year.

So, what next?

This has shown the power of campaigning. When the public, charities and other organisations work together with MP’s we have the ability to create real change. Thank you!

We must continue to work together. We have plenty of work to do.

Whoever makes up the next Government – they will have a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to publish. We need to continue to campaign to ensure this is ambitious and to hold the Government to account so that they deliver the strategy and so that we see safer streets.

Streets where children and parents feel safe walking and cycling to school and a future where this country travels short journeys in active, healthy ways.

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Read about Sustrans’ policy and influencing work.