Birmingham Blue Cycle Route
Birmingham Blue Cycle Route

The government today made a big active travel announcement. The details of its plans were in a 52-page document called Gear Change, A bold Vision for cycling and walking.

There’s more detail on the Gear Change report in HedgehogCycling’s article. These are the most important points in the announcement.

Better standards for cycle infrastructure

There’s new guidance for cycle infrastructure in England, with a summary of 22 principles set out in the Appendix to Gear Change. Some of the main changes are:

  • cycle lanes must be physically separated from traffic; paint-only lanes on busy roads will no longer be funded
  • shared use is discouraged – cycles must be treated as vehicles
  • routes should be continuous and direct, and not give up where it gets difficult
  • point closures will be encouraged, to create cycle routes and to stop rat-running through residential neighbourhoods

Active travel at the heart of transport, planning and health policy

Active travel is to be at the heart of policies on transport, planning and health. This means quality cycle infrastructure should be provided as part of any highways improvements.

It’s the intention that sustainable travel should be designed into new housing and business developments, not just in theory but in practice. There’s a long way to go there!

GPs will be able to prescribe cycling and lend bikes. Pilot schemes will begin in places with low physical activity rates, and those places will be major locations for investment in cycle infrastructure.

Creation of a body called Active Travel England

Active Travel England will hold the cycle funding, and be responsible for ensuring that local authorities comply with the new cycle infrastructure standards.

It will promote best practice advise local authorities, and train staff.

Active Travel England will fund projects on condition that work is started and finished by specified dates.

A bit like Ofsted, it will be empowered to inspect and grade Highways Authorities on their active travel performance. The assessment will influence how much an authority receives for other forms of transport.

Highway Code updates

Highway Code
Highway Code

These are designed to protect vulnerable road users. A Hierarchy of Road Users is to be introduced, so that those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility.

Important suggested amendments to the Code include:

  • drivers turning into or out of side streets should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross
  • cyclists can ride next to each other, but should single out if drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to do so
  • it is specifically stated that cyclists should ride 0.5m away from parked cars to avoid being ‘doored’
  • situations where primary position is recommended are set out, including on quiet streets and at the approach to junctions and road narrowings
  • minimum passing distances when overtaking cyclists are specified – 1.5m up to 30mph, and 2.0m above the speed or for large vehicles

There’s more information about the Highway Code consultation on HedgehogCycling, and Laura Laker puts the changes into context in her article.

There’s a link to respond to the consultation on the DfT’s consultation page. It’s open until 27th October 2020.


No extra funding accompanies this announcement – the £2bn over 5 years announced previously remains the budget. This compares with £28bn committed by the government for new roads – extra capacity that will induce more traffic, and work against the decarbonising transport agenda.

Gear Change – government cycling announcement

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