Wales is to make what Ministers believe to be the largest investment in cycling and walking to date, pledging a total of £38 million nationally.
There has been no less of a spike in interest in cycling in Wales during the Covid-19 outbreak, with Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters stating that “the Coronavirus has completely changed our lives”, acknowledging that while it has “brought much hardship and tragedy it has also presented us with a golden opportunity for change.”
The bolstered funding tops up an earlier pledge for £15.4 million, made last month and set to be spent on infrastructure designed to promote a change in transport habits. The cycling and walking pledge is, in the context of other transport spend, still a minnow among much bigger fish.
Mr Waters made a well-founded connection between fewer drivers and a fresh confidence for cyclists on the roads. As a result of assessing the difference Covid-19 restrictions made to traffic, some of the funding will now go toward shaping policy to retain some of the benefits; most notably the introduction of 20mph speed limits on key arteries used by cyclists.
Such an adaptation will happen in Ysgol Ty Fynnon, where a 20mph limit will be applied to King George Street alongside traffic calming measures. £259,500 will be invested here.
A big beneficiary will be the Sketty and Mayals links in Swansea, set to gain £1,877,000 in investment. This will prioritise incentivising cycle to school networks.
Meanwhile, Cardiff stands to gain £2,773,000 to develop new cycling infrastructure, route widening and 20mph zones. Much of this, it is proposed, will separate motor and cycling traffic.
Wales has the well-documented Active Travel Act, a piece of legislation pioneered by Waters in 2013, which mandates the 22 local authorities in Wales to provide a networked cycling routes.
Of the act, Ryland Jones, head of built environment for Sustrans Cymru, told CI.N and Just Ride The Bike earlier this year: “The Active Travel Act has helped local authorities plan, but the pace of change across Wales is very variable and there is a big difference between the vision and delivery on the ground. We are seeing more schemes, which is great, but they are not always in the right place or ambitious enough. In some respects, a scheme might be as simple as converting a footpath to shared use.”