I was pleased to receive correspondence from constituents supporting calls for investment in cycling and walking and the Government's draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS). I, too cycle to work. I agree there are huge transport and health benefits that encouraging cycling and walking would tap into. I therefore believe that cycling and walking should be a transport priority and need to be consistently promoted across the country and this is why I signed the letter.
A CWIS was legislated for in the Coalition Government's Infrastructure Act 2015. In the last Parliament, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues tabled an amendment during the Committee Stage of the Infrastructure Bill to require the Secretary of State for Transport to set a long-term commitment and funding settlement to increase rates of walking and cycling. The Coalition Government initially voted against this amendment for a cycling and walking strategy, but after concerted pressure from cycling, transport and health organisations, the Coalition Government amended the Infrastructure Bill to include it.
The current Government has finally published its long awaited draft CWIS and its consultation on this closed on 23 May 2016. The Government is currently analysing feedback to the consultation and says the final strategy will be published in Summer 2016.
As you are aware, organisations including Cycling UK, Sustrans, British Cycling and Living Streets are calling on the Government to ensure the CWIS is a success, for example through clear targets, committed Government investment, a framework for assessing performance and independent governance. For this strategy to meet its aspirations, I believe it must include clear interim targets for the growth of both cycling and walking and have dedicated clear investment that matches the ambition of the strategy. These targets need to be measureable and regularly assessed to ensure not just progress, but that public money is well spent. I therefore believe there should also be an independent body that will both challenge and support the government's plans for cycling and walking.
I have been disappointed by the Government's record on cycling over the past six years. The Coalition Government scrapped Cycling England with its long-term £60 million annual budget and I am concerned the current Government does not have a plan to meet its aim to increase spending on cycling to £10 per person each year. Indeed, Cycling UK has calculated on the basis of figures obtained by the Opposition that Government spending will fall to just 72p per capita outside London by 2020. I am also concerned by figures highlighted by Living Streets which show an increase in the proportion of primary school aged children being driven to school at the expense of walking.
I hope the Government will respond to the calls from cycling and transport organisations and my Shadow Frontbench colleagues and produce a meaningful final strategy on cycling and walking that sets out clear, long term funding. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to follow this issue closely and press the Government to provide cycling and walking with the support that is needed.