Active Travel Act – 10th anniversary event emphasises work still to be done

As the Welsh Government’s Active Travel Act approaches its 10th anniversary, a special event was held to mark its progress and identify areas where further work is needed.

The event, being held around Cardiff’s Pierhead Building on Wednesday (October 4), was organised by the Senedd Cross-Party Group on the Active Travel Act. It featured a panel discussion with Active Travel Commissioner for England and former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman MBE and workshops from a number of organisations from the sustainable transport sector and beyond.

Members of the Senedd from all four parties were in attendance, including Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters MS.

(Left: Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, speaking at the event on the steps of the Senedd).

When it was passed in 2013, the Active Travel Act was designed to make walking and cycling the preferred mode of travel for most people in Wales, in response to rising rates of inactivity. By reducing the number of cars on the road, the act also aimed to achieve economic and environmental benefits, such as reducing congestion and emissions.

However, a report issued by the cross-party group last year revealed that walking and cycling rates have remained static and made 51 recommendations for improving the efficacy of the act, including increasing public awareness and making active travel routes more accessible for disabled people.

Among the organisations taking part in the event are RNIB Cymru, who alongside Living Streets Cymru will led guests on a guided walk to demonstrate the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face when travelling on foot.

Workshop led by RNIB in collaboration with Guide Dogs for the Blind

Ansley Workman, RNIB Cymru director said:

“We’re looking forward to joining our friends at other organisations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Active Travel Act. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to walk, wheel and cycle safely and independently, but many obstacles remain for blind and partially sighted people travelling in Wales.

“We’ll be showing guests first hand some of the challenges that people with sight loss face, such as uneven paving, street clutter and vehicles parked on pavements. We hope this will help to raise awareness of the issues that can prevent people with sight loss engaging with active travel and open up discussions about how we can move forward.”

Also attending were Cycling UK, who led a mass bike ride from Pedal Power in Pontcanna to the Senedd.

Gwenda Owen, Wales Lead Officer at Cycling UK said:

“We’ve been campaigning for cycling for over 140 years and we were delighted when the Active Travel Act came in to force 10 years ago, placing a duty on local authorities to plan and prioritise walking and cycling infrastructure.

“We recognise that there has been progress made but we need delivery at a greater pace and scale if we are to achieve the modal shift needed. We will be exploring how we as critical friends can work more constructively with councils to achieve this during our workshop.”

Haf Elgar is the Vice Chair of Healthy Air Cymru, a group that raises awareness of the health impact of pollution and campaigns for cleaner air policies in Wales.

(Left: Haf Elgar on the right with Kirsty Luff, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Cymru)

She said:

“Ten years on from the passing of the Active Travel Act, we’re more aware than ever of the climate emergency we’re living in, and the impact that air pollution has on our health and wellbeing.

“This makes enabling active travel all the more important, and we are pleased to be sharing that message at this special event.”

Panel discussion chaired by Huw Irranca-Davies

Huw Irranca-Davies MS leads the cross-party group and chaired the panel discussion on the day. He said:

“Our ground-breaking Active Travel Act in Wales has laid an excellent foundation for making walking and cycling the easy option for shorter journeys. But as we approach its 10th anniversary, we need to up the pace to help us tackle the huge challenges of climate change, poor air quality and ill health resulting from physical inactivity.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be working with organisations like Pedal Power, Sustrans and all the other members of the CPGATA to mark the anniversary with a call for more action to deliver fully on the ambitions we set out 10 years ago.”

The circular walk and bike ride took place from midday, with talks and workshops following throughout the day.

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