Something profound has happened to the way councils will be able to access money for walking and cycling. Chief Executives of Councils, Councillors, City Mayors, and Metro-Mayors really need to get a handle on this fast because they are about to lose out massively in ways that will only become apparent about a year from now.
The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) published April 21st 2017, has within it a requirement for councils to prepare Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs). Without these in place, councils and regional areas will have no ability to bid for any central government pots of money to improve cycling and walking networks.
Follow the money
East Sussex council are 3 months into their LCWIP while the West Of England Metro Mayor is only just beginning a Transport Consultation process to deliver a Local Transport Plan next year.
East Sussex has recognised that councils have access to central government chests of money, but need the keys to get at it. The LCWIP is the master key. Without it you are relying on council tax revenues which are being massively squeezed. You get nothing.
Not recognising the danger
Any council/area (e.g. BaNES and the West of England) will be years behind other councils in being able to get central government money if they do not have LCWIPs in place. This is an extremely bad position for a council to be in.
What we need to do
This article is a good summary of the steps needed to deliver an LCWIP and explains why it is vital for politicians to understand how important it is that the council officers deliver LCWIPs this year.
The Government guidance sums up what needs to be done:
- Scope – define where, geographically, an LCWIP makes sense and identify the key players.
- Evidence – understand where people walk and cycle now, and where infrastructure investment could strengthen and expand active travel activity.
- Plan for cycling – devise a cohesive whole network capable of accommodating personal movement at between 10-20mph, using trip origin-destination and route choice data.
- Plan for walking – in many places people and bikes won’t mix that well, so define key walking zones and required improvements separately.
- Prioritise – you probably can’t afford it all, so figure out what it will cost and which improvements deliver maximum value for money.
- Integrate – embed LCWIPs into other local policies, strategies and delivery plans to help secure and allocate funding for their implementation.
It’s not enough
The article offers further advice based on their experience:
- Start with vision and leadership: If councillors aren’t excited or committed, then it probably won’t happen. In many locations, prioritising cycling and walking necessitates re-prioritising road-space or verges. This won’t be for everyone, and it won’t be for everywhere. Getting key decision-makers on a bike in UK and European locations, where public space for walking and cycle network provision is being well-delivered, illuminates what can be achieved.
- Resist compromise: The net effect of previously shying away from trickier decisions means a lot of existing routes in UK towns and cities are circuitous and provided where it was easy, rather than where priority and segregation from traffic are required. If your town or city’s desired cycle network meanders towards a series of indirect or compromised routes, then we’d be the first to say ‘don’t waste the money’. Conversely, if you deliver high-profile, high quality, cohesive routes that clearly cater for demand, then evidence of subsequent uptake should offer the proof and political capital needed for continued investment.
- Involve local walking and cycling groups: In the past many councils seemed to avoid engaging local campaign groups, perhaps because their views on existing networks are uncompromising and (sometimes brutally!) honest. In our experience, working with local cycling communities, to understand how and where people cycle to collaboratively design key pieces of infrastructure, helps secure buy-in and deliver networks that people use.
- Make a ‘whole network’ economic case: Although oft-criticised, WebTAG offers a mechanism for articulating the relatively low costs and significant economic, public health, air quality and traffic decongestion benefits associated with high quality cycle network improvements. We advocate robustly appraising the potential benefits of a complete network, as well as constituent links. Knowing the total ‘big ticket’ cost for a town or city’s walking and cycling network can inform prioritised early delivery of greatest impact/high priority links, informing the case for using developer contributions and Local Growth Fund monies to deliver links that support growth.
- Push-through diminishing returns: Once you have delivered a few high-quality, high priority links there might be a temptation to forget about the smaller connectors. Before you do, don’t forget that the value of the whole network will far exceed that of constituent links. Seeing the job through is a critical success factor for developing a cohesive network.
- Maintain and monitor: Once built, don’t forget about it! Maintaining walk/cycle routes as we do roads is not something we have been great at, but is critical to sustaining an active travel revolution. Designing-in usage counting mechanisms helps understand how your emerging network is being used – helping to make the case for further investment.
You cannot ignore this. Cycle Bath is making this their number one priority for future delivery of cycling and walking infrastructure in BaNES and the West of England. You should be lobbying your councillors and asking when the council will be developing LCWIPs for your area. This is your meal ticket to better cycling and walking infrastructure.
Nothing else matters
Within the realm of cycle campaigning, right now, nothing else matters. Your council needed an LCWIP yesterday. Your Councils should be funding and leading on the delivery of LCWIPs.
Mayors have their roles to play
Metro Mayors should be leading/funding LCWIPs as part of a strategic transport vision. They should be developing a regional approach to create a cohesive set of LCWIPs.
Dereliction of Duty
Let’s be clear. These are absolutely fundamental to councils and mayors going forward. If your council and mayor are not in the process of getting LCWIPs in place then they are failing you as a resident.
Keep asking this question to all mayors, councillors and officers:
“When will we have a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan? Can we help you deliver one?”