The Guardian on cycling provision


28 July 2023


The Guardian on cycling provision

Our response to an article in The Guardian which appeared on 27 July 2023.

‘National Highways accused of systemic failure on cycling provision in England’ was the headline on a story in The Guardian.

It went on to claim ‘the government owned body in charge of trunk roads was using a loophole to deliver substandard shared use paths in rural areas’.

The Guardian article talks about a ‘loophole’, but we don’t recognise that as a description of our design standards or our commitment to investment in active travel.

In our response to the journalist Dr Joanna White, Roads Development Director at National Highways, stated:

“Active travel is extremely important to us. We are investing more than £105 million in active travel schemes for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

“We look at each scheme on its own merits and our design teams follow established standards to determine provision, working with stakeholders and ensuring value for money to the taxpayer.”

To expand on the point, designers can choose to feature CD195 Designing for Cycle Traffic or CD143 Designing for Walking, Cycling and Horse riding, when designing a scheme. CD195 provides dedicated cycle provision for cyclists and CD143 provides the requirements for shared facilities, so there will always be provision for cyclists depending on which is used.

These design standards do not apply to motorways, where walkers, cyclists and horse riders are not allowed, so only apply to the A-roads that National Highways manages.

Designated Funds is one of the key funding vehicles for active travel investment. The walking, cycling and horse riding theme sits within the Users and Communities theme, to give our customers a better end to end journey experience. National Highways is due to invest £105m in walking, cycling and horse-riding schemes during this five-year road investment (RIS 2) period. There are also other National Highways programmes which will deliver active travel provision including major enhancement schemes and other projects.

The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges has an established process to assist designers in determining what level and type required for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

For large impact walkers, cyclists and horse riders, the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges document GG142 Walking, Cycling and Horse Riding Assessment and Review Process mandates that designers review existing facilities, undertake surveys of existing users as well as engage with key stakeholders to inform decisions around the appropriate level of provision.

New schemes are designed to the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges standards current at the commencement of the scheme design.  Where updated standards are published mid-way through the development of a scheme, designers will seek to adopt the later standards where it is feasible to do so. 

We do not retrospectively apply new standards to existing roads unless a need has been identified and appropriate funding allocated.

During this Roads Period (2020-2025), we are exploring how we quantify and better understand the journeys made by walkers, cyclists and horse riders that pass along and across the Strategic Road Network on our dedicated assets. We are working with partners to collate, analyse and interpret relevant evidence that will help us improve customer experience on our network.

As much of National Highways’ network is rural and located away from residential and industrial areas, providing shared use walking and cycling provision may often be a more proportionate approach for the anticipated levels of usage.

And it’s worth noting the positive reception to the shared path we’ve introduced on the A27 scheme near Lewes.

The A27 is key route along the south coast and sees thousands of road users every day.

Delays and congestion were common. This stretch of road was quite narrow in areas and there were only a few places for walkers, cyclists and horse riders to cross safely.

We’ve made changes to improve safety and the flow of traffic by putting in new crossings, adding lanes at key junctions, and building a 13km shared use path from Firle in the west to Polegate in the east.

Since opening this year, the path been a popular hit with walkers, cyclists and horse riders of all ages and abilities. The route follows the A27 for almost nine miles, connecting local communities and providing greater accessibility to nearby places and businesses – including the South Downs National Park.

There is also the Saints Trails, a three mile trail that connects Perranporth and Goonhavern in Cornwall, designed to accommodate walkers, cyclists and horse-riders which has been well received since it opened.