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The active travel inspectorate will have a lot on its plate

Roland Graham West Kirby Wirral CH48
12 June 2020

The announcement that there is to be an active travel inspectorate for England is welcome (‘Active travel inspectorate for England’ LTT 15 May). There will also be a national cycling commissioner.

To provide well for active travel and to aid its development for years ahead, there should be walking and cycling audits of all highway developments; arguably these are now more important than safety audits, with pollution killing more people than traffic accidents. But their need is largely ignored. This is just one argument for why there should be an inspectorate for highway authorities, to help keep them up to date, especially when their staff are depleted after years of austerity. 

There is other work that the new inspectorate will need to be involved with, such as accident analysis. Reporting of accidents also needs co-operation with the police. So one awaits to see how this inspectorate will work, and how it will relate to the work of the commissioner.

More immediately, the Government has ordered councils to develop quick plans for schemes to encourage active travel. The works may be temporary but, much better, could be made permanent. The budgets will be small, so there is a risk of doing something simple that could make later development more costly than necessary. As you reported in the editorial in LTT May 29, “As one contributor to LTT’s discussion on the topic said last week, once these schemes are in, it will be politically hard to take them out if they’re judged a success.” 

One form of such a scheme is a main road having links designed for a cycle route and signalled junctions giving appropriate priority for using it, but not for cyclists wishing to make right turns to or from it. This would be judged a success. But later it could be considered that the junctions should be redesigned to help cyclists make right turns to extend use of the route, or to cross the main road. Oxford Road in Manchester, which was designed before the advent of the Bee Lines network, is an example of this. 

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