This is one bill that will pay for itself...
News today that the Welsh Government's "Active Travel Bill" aims to make walking and cycling safer and easier is very welcome news indeed.
This is excellent news!
While still at university I wrote a dissertation on active travel. I would be first to admit that I did focus on England (and Benelux) to an extent. So it's a pleasant surprise to see Wales coming out with legislation.
The medical community, particularly the Royal Colleges which represent the different specialties, need to support this loudly, and not let governments water it down.
Also - why just Wales? Can we expect the Coalition Government to come out with something at least as strong?
Now - let me reproduce the "mission statement" bit of the article:
The Bill, which is a key commitment in the Programme for Government, is aimed at making walking and cycling easier and safer by requiring local authorities to plan fully integrated active travel networks. The legislation will require local authorities in Wales to:
identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling;
identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network;
deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process;
consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes.
I'm all for high quality segregated infrastructure - and I believe that's the only way we'll get significantly more bums on bikes - but this bit has me worried:
"The legislation will require local authorities in Wales to identify and map the network of routes within their areas that are safe and appropriate for walking and cycling"
My concern here is, if you are riding from A to B on the only realistic route - eg rural A roads such as the A4165 from Oxford to Banbury - and the local authority has not identified that road as "safe and appropriate for walking and cycling", then if you are injured (or worse) by a "careless" or dangerous driver, are they and their insurer going to argue that you shouldn't have been there in the first place?
These concerns are probably ill founded. They state further duties to:
"identify and map the enhancements that would be required to create a fully integrated network for walking and cycling and develop a prioritised list of schemes to deliver the network;"
"deliver an enhanced network subject to budget availability and following due process;"
"consider the potential for enhancing walking and cycling provision in the development of new road schemes."
Therefore it's unlikely an insurer could argue that you shouldn't have been on a particular road, when there is no realistic alternative. I've no great love for vehicular cycling - it's a stop-gap solution for a few fit young cyclists like me - but it looks like it's safe for now.
The further undertakings are vague, but promising. Once there's a document showing the network we SHOULD have, it will become increasingly difficult to put off building it. And the "enhanced network" they mention could be all talk and no tarmac, but could be an example of "aim for the Netherlands, get Denmark" in terms of improving cycling infrastructure.
Most of all, it's nice to see politicians (and others) taking seriously about bikes!
This Bill is a great first step in the right direction; now let's see the rest of Team GB (and Northern Ireland) commit to it, and more.