Earlier this week transport minister Jesse Norman met with his counterpart at the Department for Health to "discuss opportunities for joint working." This is the sort of "joined-up" government that many cycle advocates have long called for.
Norman added that this meeting – which was also attended by the CEO of Public Health England – discussed the "aims and ambitions" of the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, or CWIS (pronounced by wonks as see-whizz.)
Bicycle Association executive director Phillip Darnton, formerly the chair of Cycling England, welcomed Norman’s extra-departmental meeting:
"Until now, with rare exceptions, the Departments of Transport and of Health have never managed to turn acknowledged truth into practical action.
"It is therefore very encouraging news that Jesse Norman has opened new discussions with non-transport bodies on ways to encourage everyday cycling.
"There are many cycling related groups across the country, along with members of the UK cycle Industry, who are keen and ready to help, and to support his leadership."
Darnton added: "This is a very significant initiative.”
Nevertheless, like Sisyphus, we have been here before. In 2013, BikeBiz learned that the coalition government was to create the £1bn Office for Active Travel. OAT had won favour with the Treasury because it could start delivering capital projects almost immediately.
OAT was planned to be cross-departmental, not just a responsibility of the Department for Transport. This was said to be a recognition that walking and cycling are much more than just modes of transport. As OAT was also deemed to be politically uncontroversial, many thought it would also get support from Labour, too.
A source close to the OAT plans told BikeBiz at the time: "By working together, cycling and walking organisations and campaigners will be much stronger. The Office for Active Travel would have all-party support. It’s a very promising new body."
Sadly, this "promising new body" was killed off before it launched. Insiders believe this was because its remit was to "get people out of cars," which would be attacked by the mainstream media as anti-car, a toxic topic which politicians deem to be a sure-fire vote-loser.