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Chris Boardman pledges to make active travel ‘unignorable’

Chris Boardman pledges to make active travel ‘unignorable’

On Monday, Active Travel England announced it is investing £32.9 million in a national network of experts to ‘work with communities, enhance high streets and make places truly walkable and cyclable for everyone’.

This is like manna from heaven for BetterPoints: it’s where infrastructure meets behaviour change. One can’t work without the other.

The Capability Fund will ‘support local authorities across the country to train and retain local engineers and planners, creating a skilled active travel workforce able to collaborate effectively with local communities and conduct high-quality engagement and consultation sessions’.

The fund aims to drive thousands of well designed local plans, co-created with the communities who will use them.

This is such a welcome development. If we want people to change the way they travel, it has to be to something they feel invested in and want to use.

The money will fund:

  • training for local authority officers and councillors
  • development of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs)
  • network design and planning
  • feasibility studies
  • public engagement/consultation and co-design
  • data and evidence collection.

Chris Boardman, the National Active Travel Commissioner, said:

‘If we want millions more people to walk, wheel and cycle to schools, shops and workplaces, we need to give them what they need to make the switch.

‘Survey after survey has shown people want the choice to be able to use the car a bit less and would love their kids to have more transport independence, so we aim to ensure they are at the heart of creating the right solution for their area.’

Speaking on the latest The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, Chris Boardman said: ‘If you make space for your kids to walk to school or ride to school or scoot every day, then you don’t need to drive them there’.

He says it is important to provide the right space first and then layer other things on top, such as bike-ability training, so that, when they use it, people have a good experience that they want to repeat.

But where the pain comes, he says, is in the change-over period.

‘That’s where the political will is required for that first step, where people are worried about change and they can’t see the alternative until they’ve experienced it. A lot of people won’t change until they can experience something.’

He wants to create a network of skilled officers and engineers that works with local people to design spaces that they will use.

‘You need people to be able to go and speak to local communities and run really effective consultations that help the people that are there design the network that they want’, he says. ‘This is a very personal thing, changing how people travel in a region.’

The fund hopes to create up to 1,300 new green jobs across England to build, as Chris Boardman calls it, ‘a network of networks’ to help those councils that want to do it to do it well, and show the rest what needs to be done.

Active Travel England, he says, ‘will work with the willing and create examples at such a scale that they become unignorable’.

This is a great move forward. Change is not easy, and this network of people will go a long way to bridging the gulf between the status quo and the vision of active, safe and sustainable transport choices for everyone.

BetterPoints specialises in getting people to travel actively and sustainably, and we know it’s hard. And if the desired transport choices are not convenient for local people, or they don’t feel safe using them, or they don’t feel they have a stake in them, then significant changes in behaviour are much less likely.

We also know the importance of engaging with people and understanding their needs, which is why we put communications at the heart of our behaviour change app. Local authorities can deliver consultations and questions that are either scheduled, sent directly or triggered by activity, and even segmented for different cohorts – while simultaneously encouraging them to try the new opportunities for themselves.

Chris Boardman says this announcement from Active Travel England is just the beginning and that there will be more over the coming months.

We’re very excited by this. We have long craved a national initiative to make active and sustainable travel safer and more convenient so that it can become, in his words, ‘a mainstream part of transport’.

All power to Chris and his team in making active travel impossible to ignore.

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