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Statistics deliver blow to Welsh ‘active travel’ policy

06 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Empty cycle lane in Wellington Street, Cardiff

Martin Shipton

The Welsh Government’s priority to increase “active travel” has been dealt a blow after official figures showed there was actually a decrease in the proportion of people undertaking journeys on a bicycle or by foot between 2017 and 2022.

The government has introduced a £58m programme aimed at getting more people out of cars and using healthier means of getting around.

“Active travel” is defined as walking for at least 10 minutes or cycling as a means of transport to get to a particular destination. It does not include walking or cycling done for pleasure, health reasons or training.

But while in 2017-18, some 6% of adults aged 16 and over cycled at least once a week for active travel purposes, the figure was no higher in 2021-22, and in fact was fractionally smaller according to a table reproduced in the National Survey for Wales.

Furthermore, 51% of adults walked at least once a week for active travel purposes in 2021-22, compared with 60% in 2019-20.

In 2021-22, 51% of people actively travelled at least once or twice a week by walking, a decrease of 9 percentage points compared to 2019-20.

The percentage of people who frequently walked for at least 10 minutes was much higher than the percentage that frequently cycled as a means of transport.The proportion of people cycling for active travel purposes every day declined from around 1.2% in 2017-18 to around 0.9% in 2021-22. Equally the proportion walking every day for active travel purposes declined from around 27% in 2017-18 to around 19% in 2021-22.

64% of people in urban areas walked for more than 10 minutes as a means of transport at least once a month, compared with 47% of people in rural areas. People in urban areas were also more likely to walk more frequently, with 20% walking every day compared with 13% in rural areas.

Funding

Since 2018, the Welsh Government has increased active travel funding from £15m to £70m – now more than £22 for every person in Wales, compared to dedicated active travel spending in England of about £1 per head in the same period.

In June this year, Deputy Minister for Transport Lee Waters announced the extra £58m spending on active travel projects.

He said: “Walking and cycling provides a practical and vital response to help Wales meet its environmental and health targets. The Active Travel (Wales) Act puts pressure on us to deliver on high-quality active travel networks that encourage more and more people to regularly walk and cycle for journeys instead of using a car.

“Today’s funding is another substantial investment that will help us deliver ambitious plans across Wales that have all been designed to connect people with where they love and where they need to go.”

But Jeff Jones, a former Labour leader of Bridgend council, said: There’s not much of a return on the millions being spent on cycleways to nowhere from anywhere. Yet I doubt if anyone will say a word when services are being cut and £58m is being spent on cycling for the minority. Most cycling is also for leisure purposes. Lee Waters and the fanatics – because that’s what they are – really haven’t got a clue.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The availability of safe and convenient walking and cycling routes is a key factor in people’s travel choices. This is why we are committed to investing in improving local walking and cycling infrastructure that connects where people live with where they need to get to. This includes small but important changes, such as new pedestrian crossings or dropped kerbs. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we are starting to see the changes across Wales.

“The pandemic led to changes in people’s travel patterns, in particular the rise in home-working and accelerating the uptake of on-line shopping.

“We want to deepen our understanding of such patterns and have therefore started work on a National Travel Survey that will allow us to explore such changes, for example how frequently people make a walking or cycling trip, against the overall numbers of trips that people make by all forms of transport.”


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Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

I try to cycle everyday but I could do more if there were secure facilities for locking up my bike at certain points. No good using the hoop cemented into the ground. The Dutch do it well. It is not just the path that needs to be built. Supermarkets could also go a long way with secure lock ups. Well within my cycle range for topping up on a few items but no secure storage, I will drive the few miles.

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

The Dutch do it well as the infrastruture has been put in place over 50 years, and I believe they started in the 1970s after a “stop murdering children” campaign that arose as in 1975, the traffic death rate in the Netherlands was 20 percent higher than in America, but by 2008 it was 60 percent lower. In 1971, deaths by motor vehicles reached record levels, with 3,300 people dead, 500 of whom were children. It does not happen overnight and living in a old industrial village where pavements are narrow or non-existant and junctions are dominanted by cars it… Read more »

Dafydd
Dafydd
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff a gold rated D lock is absolute fine for popping to the supermarket. I too learnt the hard way that some wire coil Chinese lock can be snapped in broad daylight lashed to a hoop outside the castle 🙁 I spent £80 on a beefy lock that has a holder on my frame. There remain plenty of excuses to take the car – especially to a super market. The best however is the Welsh winter weather and pitch black dark at 5pm. We have to be real about wishful cycling utopia and this article addresses it…

Another Richard
Another Richard
7 months ago

There are too many literal barriers to active travelling. Perhaps MSs and councillors should have a car-free day from time to time to see what things are really like. Apart from a few pedestrianised streets in towns, everything is designed for cars. Negotiating a retail park on foot is often both difficult, because paths do not go where they need to go, and hazardous, because there are so few safe places to cross busy roads. Rectifying this does not require elaborate infrastructure. It requires looking at what pedestrians really need, and then providing it, rather than treating them as third-class… Read more »

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
7 months ago

Yes indeed. Part of the problem, at least for cycling infrastructure, as far as I can see is that the folk who do the design work are probably not cyclists, and do not understand the difference between an intermittantly painted road, a footpath that is open to cyclists (shared facility) and a proper cycle route. They also seem to be very keen on the “Cyclists dismount” signs. For cycling to be feasible for commuters the Route must be like a road route in that it is not broken off in places, filled with ‘dismount’ signs and so on. The other… Read more »

Robin Lynn
Robin Lynn
7 months ago
Reply to  Pete Cuthbert

Let’s not forget that Holland is flat.

max wallis
max wallis
7 months ago

Is Martin careful enough in interpreting statistics? I agree there’s no comfort for the active-travel policy in these for 2021/22. The point about pandemic-caused changes is valid. If you’re homeworking and walked/cycled out lunchtime, it counts as leisure, but when you walked/cycled in to the workplace, it counted as “active.
At the active-travel start when publicity was high, people were more inclined to say journeys were active-travel, whereas in 2021/22 they’d tend to downplay that for their trips. How do you regard walking your child to school, then perhaps calling at a shop?

Robin Lynn
Robin Lynn
7 months ago
Reply to  max wallis

Hmmm. I cycle 5km to the gym, do my gym and cycle 5KM back. Is that exercise or “utility cycling”?

Dewi Evans
Dewi Evans
7 months ago

Why are the latest grumpy thoughts of someone who hasn’t been a Councillor for 19 years relevant? Might as well as a guy down the pub

Jack
Jack
7 months ago
Reply to  Dewi Evans

He’s not to be taken seriously. Back in 2011 he was arguing that LAs can’t implement cycle infra without WG funding and now he’s arguing against the funding that he had previously called for (https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/local-news/martin-shipton-dont-put-spoke-2686205?int_source=amp_continue_reading&int_medium=amp&int_campaign=continue_reading_button#amp-readmore-target)

Silence!
Silence!
7 months ago

How is the data gathered? I feel this is probably just a survey and therefore useless

Null
Null
7 months ago

I got rid of my car, and since I live near the city centre, walk to every destination I need for shopping or leisure (I work from home so do not need to commute). However, I feel increasingly insecure and threatened as a pedestrian, because Swansea Council now insists on shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists. I have already been hit by one cyclist in Wind Street and have had near misses with others. So many cyclists are really aggressive, think it is OK to zip by just inches away from a pedestrian. In addition to that, further stress is… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
7 months ago
Reply to  Null

In Cardiff virtually every footway is ‘shared space’ for pedestrians and cyclists, even on quiet residential streets simply because the laws are not enforced. I know there are a lot of considerate cyclists about who do slow down, and who do stop at red lights and who do display lights at night,and even have a bell, but there are so many who don’t and they can be a menace, particularly those who seem to think they have a divine right to carve up pedestrians. However, for balance I have also seen the converse, where pedestrians behave like zombies on routes… Read more »

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
7 months ago

Much too much of this budget was spent on hardware (including physical infrastructure), because that is what highway engineers do.

But software would have been a far better investment – participation, education, communications, redressing the bias against people (vis-a-vis vehicles) in the Highway Code…

But that is not what highway engineers do.

Dafydd
Dafydd
7 months ago

I cycle a lot. Lucky to live just by Taff Trail in Tongwynlais – a fully segregated lovely track (Hailey Park excepted). For every cyclist I see there are 10 joggers… Dreadfully underutilised and disproves all the infrastructure spend demands. Sometimes you have to just accept choice and facts as it doesn’t get better than this lovely path…

David
David
7 months ago

What stupid Stats. We were all isolating for best part of the figures they have collated.. More money wasted on idiotic stat gathering and idiotic policies.

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