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Active Travel

Volume 678: debated on Thursday 2 July 2020

The Government have provided £250 million of funding to local authorities this financial year to increase levels of active transport.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating teachers, parents and volunteers who are opening school streets such as that for Albermarle Primary School in Putney, which are making streets cleaner, safer, greener and more cycle-friendly? On cycling, when will the Government publish their updated cycle infrastructure guidance for local authorities and the much promised cycling and walking plan or investment strategy, and will it be before recess?

I congratulate the initiative on the roads, which is fantastic. My hon. Friend will know that I have announced £2 billion, and nearly £50 million of that has been made available to local authorities straightaway. I can also inform the House that a further tranche of money will be made available over the summer as well, along with the plans that she refers to.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment to cycling and his investment in it. In my constituency of Barrow, we have the opportunity now to create a safe cycle route from Walney Island all the way up the A590 to Ulverston across some abandoned railway bridges. Making that work means getting Network Rail, Highways England and our county council to pull together. What advice and support can he give me to make that happen?

It sounds like a terrific scheme, and my advice to my hon. Friend is to have the local authority work with all those other bodies, including Network Rail, Highways England and the county council. I will join him in pushing from my end to ensure that can happen.

Bury Council has outlined plans for 70 new or upgraded crossings and five miles of protected cycle routes on busy roads, which if completed, would allow 88% of the population to use the Greater Manchester Bee Network. Implementation of those plans, however, has stalled, despite funding being in place. Will the Secretary of State meet me to ensure Bury North residents have the benefit of those improvements at the earliest opportunity?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Manchester Bee Network is extremely important. I can inform him that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has already had £3.174 million to assist in projects such as this and, of course, either myself or the Minister with responsibility for cycling will be absolutely delighted to meet him.

I thank the Department for the support it has given Brighton and Hove Council to move forward on some of its street schemes, but the developing lungs of children are the most vulnerable, so air quality around schools is important as is, of course, the fitness that we want to encourage in children. As we have heard, London has already started taking action on school street schemes, so will the Secretary of State bring into effect part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to enable local authorities outside London to start to enable school street schemes to keep our children safe and reduce the 40,000 deaths because of poor air quality every year?

I thank the Secretary of State for that very direct answer. Around 40% of the lowest income households do not have access to a car, but we know from the Government’s own research that because they tend to live in more hazardous environments—so more traffic, more on-street parking, more pollution and little space for cycling and walking—they are deterred from active travel. Can we have a national strategy from the Government, not just money being sent down to local councils, to try to increase cycling and walking in our more deprived communities?

As the hon. Lady will know, the Government are very much in favour of people being able to take active transport, but we are not against the car. That is why we are investing £27 billion in roads, but I can tell her—I am sure she will welcome this—that we think the priority for walking and cycling is absolutely essential. I think she will be very pleased with what we have to say in forthcoming guidance on the subject.