British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman has reinforced his call for the government to put meaningful investment into its forthcoming Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, following the launch of a consultation on the air quality in some of Britain’s busiest cities.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a consultation paper aimed at tackling the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, the effects of which are estimated to be responsible for around 23,500 deaths in the UK every year.
The paper also states the department’s ambition ‘to make the UK a country with some of the very best air quality in the world’, and developing the nation’s cycling infrastructure in order to achieve this.
Boardman believes that the government now has the chance to turn this into a reality by learning from our European neighbours and implementing a well-funded strategy:
“The amount of deaths link to NO2 is a staggering figure, so I am mystified as to why these largely preventable deaths aren’t being treated as a national emergency; a full-blown crisis. This is particularly true since the solution is so obvious and is already being employed all across Europe.
“We know that more cycling and walking could drastically reduce the death toll caused by pollution if we committed to it like our European neighbours.
"In the Netherlands - just 250 miles from where our government sits - 44% of all train journeys start with a bike ride and 50% of all school children ride to school. Why are we not striving for the same?
“The forthcoming Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy could, with serious commitment and adequate funding, establish an infrastructure which would give people a genuine option to leave their car at home and travel to offices and schools on foot or by bicycle.
“Prioritising cycling and walking in our transport system is a proven, cheap, effective and sustainable solution to many of our problems. With so many needless deaths, the government shouldn’t be asking themselves ‘why should we?' invest in cycling, but rather, start explaining why they aren’t.”
The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy requires the government to put a programme in place which details the objectives and financial resources made available.
During the 2015 general election, prime minister David Cameron committed to fund cycling by £10 per head, while putting the infrastructure in place to make cycling the ‘natural choice for shorter journeys’.