While the discussion highlighted that the Welsh Government is committed to promoting and supporting active travel, the panelists emphasised key areas which need to be considered to ensure we create a sustainable and equitable future. Dive into this article for more information about the topics we covered, or watch the replay on YouTube.
#15MinCities: Understanding & overcoming active travel challenges in Wales
From sharing insights to innovative ideas, this enlightening conversation during the first #15MinCities event tackled the challenges of active travel head-on.
Christine Boston, the Director of Sustrans Cymru, delivered a keynote speech where she discussed the Disabled Citizens Inquiry work. She highlighted the shocking statistic that disabled people take 38% fewer trips than non-disabled people across all modes of transportation, a problem commonly referred to as the transport accessibility gap. She stressed the importance of gathering the lived experiences of disabled people to identify what would make walking and wheeling easier for them, highlighting that improving access for this group also benefits a wider range of people, from Mums walking with prams, to people with mobility issues.
Christine also emphasised the need for a cultural shift, and to help people understand the broader issue of why organisations and the government are working towards 15-minute cities and more connected neighbourhoods. Adding that active travel is often thought of in terms of “transportation” however it really involves many aspects, health, education, social care. It has to be across all departments. Christine also spoke to the need for inclusion when planning for the future, highlighting that projects need to include a wide range of people.
Josh James, Public Affairs Manager of Living Streets, spoke about the most common, accessible, and affordable form of active travel - walking. James also echoed Christine’s call for inclusion, emphasising that this issue is complex and involves many different stakeholders, highlighting that we must think of people who live in rural areas in addition to villages, towns and cities. Josh shared the insights from a recently released report that showed pedestrian falls cost taxpayers up to £0.5 billion each year, highlighting the economic need to get more people walking and cycling on roads and streets in a safe way.
Chris Slade, Partnerships Manager at Fifteen, shared how Europe is overcoming similar challenges in improving accessibility to bikes and increasing active travel, particularly around cycling. He shared several innovative solutions that Fifteen works with local government to deliver, touching on augmented bike networks, a flexible bike-sharing system which can include long-term rentals, short-term rentals, and/or bike-sharing systems that partner with train networks. He also emphasised how the industry has come a long way. The conversation around policies like the 15-minute city concept is gaining political support, as seen in Paris with Anne Hildago’s campaigning on the concept of Paris being a 100% cyclable city, which is proving popular with residents.
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Councillor Sara Burch, Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities, shared with us the practical challenges of promoting active travel in Monmouthshire, in addition to the realities that the Active Travel face. Sara described how the funding available from the Welsh government has been transformational for promoting active travel in the county, and shared a bit about the work of Monmouthshire’s amazing active travel team. Projects include slow streets with traffic calming measures and pedestrian bridges to enable safer travel for residents. Sara also emphasised the economic benefits of supporting safer streets. For example, facilitating safer environments for people to walk and cycle will encourage more kids being able to cycle to school.
Overall, the panellists spoke to the importance of promoting safe, healthy, vibrant, green spaces accessible via walking or public transport (including cycling). The vision of the 15 minute city, where everyone is able to walk or cycle just as easily as taking a car is in progress. However, the panel stressed the need for multi-year funding and resources to pay for the necessary skills and expertise that teams need to implement active travel projects. Lastly, the panel also emphasised the need to bring together a wide range of people to understand the needs of a diverse community and ensure infrastructure and various projects work for all.
A huge thank you to our panellists, Councillor Sara Burch (Monmouthshire), Josh James (Living Streets), Chris Slade (Fifteen) and keynote speaker Christine Boston (Sustrans Cymru). Also, many thanks to everyone who attended the event live on 1st March, we were thrilled to be able to host an engaging space to exchange ideas and work towards a happier and healthier future together. For information about upcoming events, do ensure you're registered to our newsletter.