Sustrans welcomes the publication of the West of England Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). This is our response to the recent consultation.
As set out in the document, the LCWIP should be a technical exercise to identify walking and cycling networks based on guidance published by the Department for Transport in 2017.
This guidance sets out the stages of development that authorities should go through in order to develop their plans, as well as the three principal suggested outputs:
- A network plan for walking and cycling which identifies preferred routes and core zones for further development
- A prioritised programme of infrastructure improvements for future investment
- A report which sets pout the underlying analysis carried out and provides a narrative which supports the identified improvements.
One of the key objectives to the development of an LCWIP is to help to support the aims and objectives of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy:
- to aim to double cycling, where cycling activity is measured as the estimated total number of cycle stages made each year, from 0.8 billion stages in 2013 to 1.6 billion stages in 2025, and to work towards developing the evidence base over the next year
- to aim to increase walking activity, where walking activity is measured as the total number of walking stages per person per year, to 300 stages per person per year in 2025, and to work towards developing the evidence base over the next year
- to increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 that usually walk to school from 49% in 2014 to 55% in 2025.
The technical guidance suggests that ‘authorities should prioritise areas which have the greatest potential for growing cycling and walking trips’.
It is Sustrans’ view that the West of England Combined Authority LCWIP has delivered on some of the objectives set out in the technical guidance and has developed a package of individual schemes that will be beneficial to walking and cycling in the local context.
However, there are areas where the LCWIP could be improved to reflect the scale and nature of the ambitions to improve walking and cycling networks across the sub-region.
This consultation response will not explore in detail individual scheme proposals, but will concentrate on some high-level themes that we consider should be improved to:
- improve its legibility and presentation, including how it relates to other plans/policies for strategic transport, walking and cycling
- increase levels of ambition and its scope
- standardise the approaches taken across the authority area and North Somerset
- demonstrate the selection process for prioritisation and costing.
Legibility and Presentation
One of the key outputs of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan should be a network plan for walking and cycling.
Currently, the maps presented on page 21 of the consultation document are not network plans. We would have preferred to have seen a full presentation of all the routes identified in stage 3 of the development of the LCWIP.
In some respects, we have taken a step back (in Bristol specifically) from having an identified network of routes with a specific mesh density, to what is presented in the LCWIP: a select sub-set of schemes.
In terms of best practice, we would like to see the West of England adopt a similar approach to Transport for Greater Manchester who published their aspirational Bee Network in March 2019.
From this network plan, it is clear what is being prioritised and what remains aspirational. Having such a network plan would also avoid criticism of the LCWIP not being ambitious enough – we are aware that other walking and cycling schemes are included in the Joint Local Transport Plan 4 as well as other local authority delivery plans.
In this case, it is critical to be able to view the network as a coherent whole – to understand why schemes were selected for prioritisation, and how they fit into the wider network.
Ambition and scope
There are inconsistencies presented in the consultation document in terms of the quality of infrastructure proposed.
In our view, the infrastructure suggestions in the document should set out to meet a certain quality standard. Whilst we are aware that the Department for Transport has failed to publish the update to Local Transport Note 2/08 in time for this process, considerable reference could have been made to the London Cycle Design Standards, Healthy Streets toolkit and CD195 Designing for cycle traffic in order to standardise the approach across the four unitary authorities.
For instance, we’re disappointed to see references to shared use in a document which is aiming to raise the level of infrastructure ambition in the sub-region.
We are disappointed by the cautious language used throughout the document, and whilst we recognise the need to engage the public in the detail of each scheme, the aim should be for the best possible quality in the first instance.
There are too many qualifying remarks such as ‘consider’, ‘if feasible’ and ‘investigate possibility’. These qualifications nearly always accompany an improvement that would be at the expense of motor traffic such as removal of parking, implementing continuous footways, or changing vehicular priority.
In our view, there is too much emphasis on improving existing infrastructure for cycling, rather than proposing new corridors that would open up active travel to new areas.
This is particularly evident in the south and east Bristol where improvements are suggested to Victoria Park on the recently completed Filwood Quietway; incremental improvements to the Malago Greenway and alterations to the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.
We would have preferred to see improvements to areas not currently served by cycling facilities. It may be the case that these additional corridors are being considered in the JLTP4 or bus deal schemes, but it would have been preferential to have them all presented in one place, even if resource was not available to audit them.
There is also an issue that only one of the routes proposed (A38 North Fringe) crosses a local authority boundary. We know that journey patterns don’t respect administrative boundaries and there is a missed opportunity for the LCWIP to present a sub-region wide approach, particularly for the hosing growth areas of the north and east fringe.
There is an inconsistency in the identification of core walking zones. Whilst the local high streets and retail areas and rail stations are important to highlight, there is no narrative to explain why the 30 in the document were chosen, and others omitted.
There are also obvious omissions, such as Southmead Hospital and Portishead Railway Station which would be operational within the plan period to 2036.
We also think there is a missed opportunity to use low traffic/liveable neighbourhoods as demand management measures to reduce the levels of motorised vehicles.
Furthermore liveable neighbourhoods, where applied in Waltham Forest, have been successful in increasing levels of walking and cycling, improving air quality and increasing life expectancy at a population level.
We consider liveable neighbourhoods as a key intervention in residential areas, providing the foundation for signed quietway routes as well as facilitating the kinds of local journeys the JLTP4 seeks to enable to be made by walking and cycling. Whilst it is welcome to see references to liveable neighbourhoods for Bedminster/Southville and St. Werburghs, we would like to see greater commitment to further exploration across all urban areas covered by the plan.
There is one further final omission at which we are surprised, and that is the lack of reference to the Climate Emergency, declared by the West of England Combined Authority its three constituent unitary authorities and North Somerset.
We are surprised therefore that this key strategic planning document for active travel makes no reference to the level of challenge and action required over the next decade.
Neither does the document sufficiently discuss the mode shift requirements across the sub-region in order to meet zero carbon transport ambitions. Simply put, the schemes identified in the LCWIP to 2036 could not possibly enable the scale of mode shift required to meet the carbon and vehicle mileage reduction targets the authorities have committed to.
As such we would like to see a commitment to delivering the first phase of projects identified by 2025, with a commitment to refreshing the LCWIP in 2025 (as suggested in the Bristol One City Plan).
A standard approach
There is a missed opportunity to deal with common repetition throughout the maps section of the document.
This would reduce the amount of clutter by having a section in the narrative, possibly in place of the types of improvements (which may be better placed as a glossary of terms), which could cover the following general principles:
- Maintenance issues such as overhanging vegetation
- Management and enforcement issues such as removing A-boards and retailer advertising pavement parking, bins and street furniture obstructions
- 20mph speed limits, traffic calming, junction geometry tightening, and vehicle volume reduction implied on any ‘Quietway’ interventions
- Continuous footways throughout core walking zones and routes and where alongside separated cycling infrastructure
- Tactiles provided at junctions and crossings (a statutory obligation and should be picked up by cyclical maintenance).
Selection process, prioritisation and costing
Currently the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan does has not published the selection criteria for the routes to be put forward for auditing.
This is unfortunate as it would help with transparency, as well as helping with understanding what is not presented. Whilst some information is explained in Appendix 1, it would have been useful to understand how each scheme was scored relative to others.
It would also have been useful to have an assessment of cost relative to each individual scheme.
The consultation document does not make a judgement on prioritisation, despite one of the key outputs set out in the guidance being a prioritised programme of scheme interventions.
Whilst we acknowledge the difficulty in short-term funding and applying different government priorities to a list of aspirational schemes, it would have been useful to present, for the Department’s benefit, the schemes which would have the biggest impact on helping to meet the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy objectives.
We also acknowledge the tension between the urban centres and rural hinterland and a need to balance how funding is applied across the Combined Authority area.
However, this could be dealt with by the Combined Authority committing more of its own devolved and grant funds (such as its Transforming Cities Funding) to active travel.
Had the document contained prioritisation criteria and costs, we believe there would have been an additional layer of transparency for the public to engage with – making the document and process as a whole more legible.
Sustrans’ welcomes the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan publication as well as the detail contained within the auditing process for each individual route identified.
However, the detail is lacking in how those routes were prioritised, as well as the cost of the individual interventions. This omission makes it difficult to judge where investment should be prioritised which is precisely the question the LCWIP process seeks to answer.
In some regards, the LCWIP feels like one step forward – we now have pre-feasibility detail for schemes across the West of England which places the sub-region in a better position to direct revenue funding to work up the detail to strategic outline business case stage.
In others, the LCWIP feels like two steps back – we have lost the concept of strategic walking and cycling networks established in previous policies. Whilst the LCWIP will no-doubt be an evolving document as schemes are completed, that evolution process will not be quick, or agile enough to tackle the climate emergency.
We would like to see the restoration of strategic walking and cycling networks commensurate with the scale of the challenges the sub-region faces.