This year, the government set out its plans to 2040, to increase the number of people who walk and cycle on a daily basis. Having scrutinised the plans set out in a recent consultation, Thompsons Solicitors argues that more needs to be done to ensure that this isn’t just ‘warm words’ about long-term goals but that the necessary financial resources are provided across the country to make this ambition a reality in the short-term.

The government’s main aims are to double the amount of bicycle journeys travelled in the UK by 2025, reverse the decline in the number of people travelling on foot, and to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by cyclists on the roads.

Commenting on the plans, Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons, says that while there are some worthwhile new ideas, it is vital that local areas work better together to share initiatives which have already been proven effective in improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

“Every year Thompsons represents thousands of road users - cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike - who have been injured through no fault of their own. While we recognise the government’s ambition to increase rates of cycling and walking by driving up safety, there is no point reinventing the wheel. There are many measures which have been tried around the country which could be rolled-out more widely. 20mph zones have proven to be effective in cities such as London, Brighton and Bristol, while properly segregated cycle lanes and better signage are also tried and tested ways of making cycling safer for all road users.

“In Brighton, the implementation of 20mph zones has contributed to a reduction in the number of serious injuries by nearly 20%, and a general reduction in the overall number of incidents by 54 in its first year. However, in a climate of restricted police budgets and stretched departments, it is essential that the necessary resources are focused on proper enforcement of the speed limit.”

The government seeks to achieve their aims by 2025 and 2040. The fact that the plans are ambitious shouldn’t be an excuse for them to be unrealistically long term, there should be short-term goals set to ensure that progress is made with the government committing itself to tangible, funded improvements in that time frame. The shorter-term goals that the government says will be set ‘in due course’ should, if they are to be as far-reaching and effective as possible, be published soon and consulted on.

We also welcome recent developments in London to improve cycling infrastructure, in particular the construction of segregated cycle ‘superhighways’ along 12 miles of London’s roads. These are a vast improvement on the original version, mere strips of blue paint with no segregation from the rest of the traffic. The first six months of the fully segregated superhighway at Vauxhall saw a 73% increase in cycling, which goes to show that better infrastructure really does encourage more people to cycle. It is important that this trend continues and we are hopeful that the new mayor will put this at the centre of his transport strategy.”

According to the consultation document, the ‘Cycle Ambition Cities’ programme, announced in 2013, pledged £191 million to eight cities outside London to improve cycling infrastructure. In contrast, in 2013, the mayor of London was able to commit to nearly £1bn on cycling for the following decade.

Mr Jones continued: “The huge disparity between London and other cities shows that simply having pockets of improvement is just not good enough. If the government is truly committed to a real UK-wide change, then it needs to ensure that all local authorities are given the resources they need to give potential cyclists a safer environment”.

You can read Thompsons’ full submission to the Department for Transport here.