On Easter Sunday, the Government opened their consultation on the first ever Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. Our Head of Policy, Tom Platt, asks: how significant is it really? 

At Living Streets, we believe the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy - known as the CWIS (cee-whizz) - is a major milestone for walking in England.*

Its release marks an important step towards government recognising walking as a serious transport mode in its own right and an integral part of the network, rather than a peripheral interest or town-planning afterthought. After all, walking is a part of our everyday lives – it helps us to keep healthy, to get around and reduce congestion and pollution.

The consultation comes to a close on Monday, 23 May 2016. We’re thrilled that more than a thousand of our supporters have joined us calling for a walking target.

You can now read our full response here.

The Government’s overarching ambition is one we support:

We want to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.

Delivering a ‘walking and cycling nation’ would have a profound impact on people’s everyday lives, improving the nation’s health and supporting less congested, more competitive towns and cities.  In the Government’s own words, ‘we cannot afford not to grasp the opportunities available.’

A big positive coming out of the draft strategy is that for the first time the Government has set an objective to reverse the decline in walking. The strategy also reiterates their ambition to increase the number of children walking to school. 

But disappointingly, the consultation document doesn't contain measurable targets for walking. Instead this strategy promises, rather oddly, to review whether ‘quantifiable targets for walking for 2025 are appropriate’ during the development of the next strategy.  

Funding is another area of concern. The truth is, ever since the Spending Review 2015, money for the first CWIS was likely to be disappointing. 

We know budgets are tight but the relatively tiny sums available for this ‘investment strategy’ still jar - especially when compared with the £15bn being spent on England’s motorways and trunk roads between now and 2020-21.  

The main sources of unallocated funding currently available for walking are the Access revenue fund and the Local Growth Fund. The £80m 5-year Access fund is much less than the previous £64.5m of revenue funding that was available annually under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). Capital funding is largely in the hands of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) via the Local Growth Funds. Unfortunately, their track record of spending on walking and cycling infrastructure is poor.

The centrepiece of the consultation is a set of five questions that focus on:

1.    The approach and actions contained within the draft strategy.

2.    The potential roles of national government departments, local government, other public bodies, businesses and the voluntary sector in delivering the strategy.

3.    Ideas and evidence of innovative projects and programmes which could be developed to deliver the objectives.

4.    Ideas on how to increase cycling and walking in typically under-represented groups.

5.    The type of assistance Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships would find beneficial to support development Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.

The consultation is now open until 23 May 2016. We’ll be going through the detail in the next couple of weeks and will share with you our full response.  

But here is a chance to call for bolder policies that would really make a difference to the places people walk. How about a national and consistent approach to pavement parking? Or a long overdue national 20mph default speed limit? Shouldn’t we make the case for the Government to adopt measurable targets for walking (as they have for cycling)? 

The CWIS strategy, as it stands, will not be enough to transform the nation. But it is an important first step. 

The Government states: 'Realising our ambition will…take a change in attitudes - amongst central government, local bodies, businesses, communities and individuals.' On this evidence some remain to be convinced. But we at Living Streets are determined to carry on campaigning to make Britain a walking nation.

*As a devolved policy area, it covers England only. We are working separately with the Scottish and Welsh governments on their own strategies. 

The strategy is available to read here.