In a new report by the National Insitute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), they called for all new roads to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers. While some industry chiefs agree with this idea, others are quick to criticise, claiming that NICE are catering to the “Lycra army.”

The proposals

NICE is currently asking for responses to a consultation on their report to improve roads for pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers. Some of their proposals include restricting vehicular access on certain roads, widening footpaths to make way for pedestrians, getting pupils to walk a mile a day and much more.

The proposals by NICE have been suggested as a drastic way to aim to reduce obesity, lower toxic air pollution and ease pressure on the NHS. They believe that their proposals are essential in lowering the nationwide obesity crisis.

Street and road planners have been encouraged to make roads as convenient as possible for cyclists and pedestrians, and make motorists the lowest priority on roads. NICE recommend widening pavements in order to allow for pedestrians in wheelchairs to safely navigate the pavement.

Smaller things such as asking employers to hold meetings standing up, encouraging staff to use the stairs, and asking employers to provide subsidised gym memberships and showers at work to encourage staff to cycle in. While these are small things, NICE hopes these can improve the overall health of people.

Professor Gillian Leng, the deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “Getting people to be more physically active by increasing the amount they walk or cycle has the potential to benefit both the individual and the health system.

As a society, we are facing a looming Type 2 diabetes crisis, which is in part caused by people not exercising enough. We need more people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise.

People can feel less safe when they walk or cycle compared with when they drive. We’ve got to change this.

So asking planners to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and those who use public transport when roads are built or upgraded can ensure they are safe, attractive and designed to encourage people to get out from behind their wheel.”

Concern from the industry

As cited by the RAC, new road building is scarce and often happens in housing estates where there is limited space to play with anyway. Housing estates are not often built near facilities such as doctors surgeries, supermarkets and similar, instead of in larger open spaces, so people will still need to travel in cars to get to these places.

Howard Cox of motorists’ group FairFuelUK said: “Yet another stupid out of touch edict. What planet are these so-called experts on?

The whole economy depends on road transport. A three-piece suite can’t be delivered on a bicycle. Of course, roads should be designed to cater for all users, but not by stifling the highest-taxed drivers of cars, vans and trucks in the world, for the sake of the Lycra army.”

Government response

Back in April 2017, the government published a Cycling and Walking strategy, which set out their aims to increase the number of people cycling and walking every day. The government wants to double the number of cycling or walking ‘stages’ by 2025 They define a stage as anytime someone is using a new method of transport in a journey, such as cycling to the station before getting a train or walking to meet someone before lift sharing.

In November 2018, the government went on to publish outcomes of a consultation based on their plans, and created the following points:

  • Review the existing guidance in the Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Invest £100,000 to support police enforcement by developing a national back-office function to handle dash-cam footage
  • Improve enforcement against parking in cycle lanes
  • Appoint a cycle and walking champion
  • Encourage local authorities to increase investment in cycling and walking infrastructure to 15% of total transport infrastructure spending
  • Engage with cycling and walking bodies to develop a behaviour change campaign

And now, in the present day, the government are committed to encouraging people to walk shorter journeys where at all possible, wschool-agedn to school and encourage older children to cycle to school. 90% of primary school age children live less than 15 minutes walk from their school and three-quarters of secondary school aged children live a 15-minute cycle from their house.

In response to the NICE statement, a Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘DfT guidance is crystal clear that street design should explicitly consider pedestrians and cyclists first. Our Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy safety review, published last year, set out further measures to improve safety, including a review of the Highway Code.’

Do you think that motorists should be the lowest priority on our streets? How often do you make a walkable journey in the car? Let us know below