LLANELLI’S Member of the Senedd Lee Waters has set out his long-term ambition to make active travel – getting around on foot or by bike – the norm for short local journeys in Wales.
In a blog for the walking charity Living Streets, Mr Waters said he had campaigned for a change of attitudes to walking and cycling since the age of 11. Now, he wants active travel to be part of a “high quality, integrated and sustainable public transport system” on a par with vital public services like the NHS.
“Nearly 10% of all car journeys are under 1 mile. In the right conditions, many of those journeys could be made by bike or on foot. Making that change will have lasting benefits for our health, our environment and our communities.”
“This is going to be a multi-generational project; and it is as much about attitudes and values as it is about engineering…we need to ensure that walking and cycling are the most convenient transport options for shorter journeys for as many people as possible.”
Signalling his priorities, Mr Waters said Wales would take a strategic approach to infrastructure planning. Councils will be required to set out their 15 year ambitions, underpinned by rolling three year plans. Transport for Wales will also be given a leading role, with active travel put on a par with other forms of public transport to enable more coordination.
“In my experience, councils have been reluctant to identify aspirational future routes for fear of raising local expectations. Instead, we’ve seen a patchwork of disconnected routes opportunistically built using short-term funding opportunities. Now and in future, the focus will be on a steady pipeline of schemes which connect more people from where they live to where they want to go. It’s no good us spending more money on schemes if the end products are poorly executed, so our approach must become far more strategic” Lee said.
He went onto add “I want to support local councils to listen to people who aren’t currently making local journeys by walking or cycling to help them understand what infrastructure is needed to get them to try it.”
In the blog, the Llanelli MS also announced that Dr Dafydd Trystan Davies would take up the post of Chair of the Active Travel Board. Independent of the Welsh Government, Mr Trystan’s role will be to “sharpen, challenge and stretch the implementation of active travel across Wales”.
“In appointing Dafydd, a former Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru, I hope I can demonstrate the sincerity of my commitment to keep active travel as a cross-party agenda that needs to transcend political cycles (pun not intended)”.
The Deputy Minister admitted Wales, like many part of the UK, was still living with the “legacy of past decisions” that had often located key services on locations difficult to reach without a car.
“Little thought is given to how a busy parent, or someone less confident on a bike, may be encouraged to juggle multiple priorities and several routes to get to work and school. This is a systems design failure that we must address.”
“I genuinely believe we have taken steps in the right direction. The challenge is now to go further and to go faster.”