By Michael Dugher MP, the Shadow Transport Secretary and Member of Parliament for Barnsley East.
In recent months, Labour has talked a lot about the need for people to have more of a say in the running of the railways and our bus network. But the same can also be said about cyclists and pedestrians who, similarly, have no voice. And changing that will be one of Labour's first acts in government.
That’s why, in a recent speech for the excellent Campaign for Better Transport, I announced that Labour will create a new high-level and cross-government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board, which will put cyclists and pedestrians at the top table of transport policy for the first time.
Labour is committed to implementing a long-term Cycling and Walking Strategy in government and we want cycling and pedestrian representatives to be at the heart of its development and implementation.
Labour’s new board will include ministers from across Whitehall, senior civil servants from the Department for Transport, cycling and pedestrian representatives, and will help facilitate the quick publication of the strategy in the next parliament by the summer of 2016.
To show the importance of cycling and walking to a Labour-run Department for Transport, the Secretary of State will chair the board meetings. In addition, to ensure a proper cross-departmental approach, senior representatives from relevant departments will sit on the board, including from the Department for Education, the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It is only by listening and learning from cyclists and pedestrians themselves that will we be able to deliver the big changes we need across the country.
Boosting active travel is a major priority for Labour as we not only want to improve the nation's health, but also unclog our towns and cities, help people who are being priced out of transport and make our communities safer and better places to live.
So, together with the new board, we have also set out a package of measures Labour will implement in government to support Active Travel, which will be part of our overall strategy.
First, we will set out a clear, and distinct, long-term active travel budget to give councils the certainty they need to invest effectively. For our strategic road network, we will commit to spending £250 million on cycling infrastructure, safety and integration. And we will match the Government’s proposals to spend £114 million on cycling in our cities across the country.
Since the government scrapped annual funding for Cycling England, it has been impossible to have a clear idea of where and how money is being spent. The lack of certainty and stop-start funding has resulted in an absence of expertise within local authorities, who are unable to plan and invest for long-term, effective change.
We will also commit to an in-depth review of how all government departments, agencies, local government, LEPs and the private sector are currently investing in walking and cycling. This will help determine the scale, sources and distribution of per capita funding we need for the future. And this is also an area that I want the new Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board to consider, too.
Second, we will include ambitious targets in the plan, to increase cycling and walking participation, and reduce the number of pedestrians and cyclists who are killed and seriously injured.
Third, we will devolve power to local communities. Only with Labour’s plans to give London-style transport powers to local authorities will it be possible to deliver properly integrated and effective transport systems, which support walking and cycling. There will be few improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on the ground without determined action at a local level.
Local authorities need the power and freedom to determine how best to improve transport choices. That’s why Labour has backed the Adonis Review, committing to devolve up to £30 billion of local growth funding for jobs, housing and transport to accountable city and county regions.
But we are also clear that with this comes a responsibility for local authorities to meet public policy objectives – such as providing infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, improving safety and reducing the negative environmental impacts of transport. Local authorities already have a statutory duty to publish a local transport plan. And we want to see cycling and walking in these plans as the norm, embedded into devolved local planning, development, transport and traffic schemes.
Fourth, we will introduce a powerful HGV Safety Charter, which will call on all HGVs to be fitted with safety kit, including rear-view cameras, rear warning signs for cyclists and flashing light beacons.
Fifth, we need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries. That's why we will improve how vulnerable road users are considered in the justice system.
Finally, we will give every child the opportunity to learn to ride a bike. That's why will support 'Bikeablity' in our schools. Getting children on their bikes is not only good for them, it also encourages their parents to rediscover cycling - I speak from personal experience!
Labour has plans to deliver the biggest changes to both buses and rail that we’ve seen for a generation. But we are just as ambitious with our plans for cycling and walking. And we want to move cycling and walking from the margins to the mainstream.