Now is the time to change attitudes to cycling and walking
Opinion by Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs.
Travel behaviour has transformed during lockdown both nationally and in Suffolk as more people turn to walking and cycling for essential journeys and exercise.
- Journeys made by bike rose by 120% during the pandemic, while bus, rail, ferry, plane and car journeys fell by as much as 95%.
- Latest research also suggests that as many as 16% of the population in England (8.9 million people) have been cycling per week during the pandemic.
Walking and cycling can play a huge role in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face.
Our aim at Suffolk County Council is simple - encourage more people to get out and about by walking, cycling and using public transport instead of cars. We want to embed sustainable transport as part of a long-term habit and reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits.
This shift in travel behaviour has been recognised by both the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps who have announced a £2bn walking and cycling revolution.
This is the Government’s most ambitious plan yet. Its vision commits to thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, footpaths and cycle training for everybody.
We’re already making changes here in Suffolk. In line with the Department for Transport (DfT) guidelines we’ve made several emergency alterations to road layouts in Ipswich by closing off sections of roads to motorised vehicles, widening existing footpaths and cycle lanes and providing temporary footpaths and cycle lanes. We have even changed traffic signal timings to reduce waiting times at puffin and toucan crossings.
We want to know what people think of all of our emergency interventions so that we can make temporary measures permanent where possible, enabling a shift to sustainable travel.
Walking and cycling schemes are now being considered in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Beccles, Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Sudbury.
Free cycling sessions are available via our fully qualified Cyclist Trainers for adults and families, with a focus on children returning to school in September on their bikes. We are promoting the Government’s Fix Your Bike £50 voucher scheme, and we’ve provided funding to Greater Anglia to install more cycle racks at their train stations across Suffolk to help more people make cycling part of their commute or daily routine.
Suffolk County Council has been a front runner for many of the changes in our region not only for the location of our schemes and linkages to town centres, public transport hubs, schools and major employers but also for our softer measures to promote the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits for walking and cycling. We have been praised for our efforts and commitment by the DfT.
We also want to ensure public transport is supported and encouraged in our region. The Government is currently paying public transport providers under an emergency COVID-19 support fund, and along with many other local authorities, we are asking the Government for this support to be extended to aid recovery and keep public transport providers in business.
I believe, we’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shift in attitudes for generations to come, and get more people choosing to walk or cycle for their shorter journeys and for longer journeys coupled with public transport. I want everyone to feel the transformative benefits of sustainable travel in Suffolk for our health and wellbeing and the environment. I am committed to making this vision a reality.
To find out more about all the measures Suffolk County Council is putting in place to make improvements to sustainable travel visit suffolk.gov.uk/walkingandcycling