Active travel plans for Wales: proceed with caution
14 August 2012
We have responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the Active Travel (Wales) Bill.
While we welcome the focus on walking and cycling, as healthy, sustainable and enjoyable means of travel, we are worried that if the Welsh Government gives the local authorities new duties to create integrated networks for walkers and cyclists, their existing duties to maintain public paths will suffer. Official surveys show that only about half the paths of Wales are in good order, with numerous paths blocked, intimidating or difficult to use. If there are to be extra duties on local authorities, there must also be ring-fenced funding as there was for the Wales Coastal Path. Otherwise all path users will lose out.
We are also concerned that the Welsh Government consultation appears to ignore horse-riders. Horse-riding is a popular recreation and riders need safe, quiet routes. In addition, they bring income to rural economies.
We fear that an increase in multi- user paths will put people at risk, especially the elderly and those with young children. We would wish to see segregation of users wherever possible. There is also the likelihood that new cycle routes will suburbanise the splendid countryside of Wales.
In responding, we have made a couple of proposals. The law should be changed to ensure that cycle routes are shown on the official path-maps (because at present they are not), and local authorities should continue to produce, and implement, their rights of way improvement plans to ensure that paths continue to be created where people need them.