Active Travel England visits Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Enthusiastic work by the Combined Authority and its partners to boost walking, wheeling and cycling in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area has been rewarded with a visit by the Government’s dedicated active travel team.  

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson hosted the fact-finding visit by Active Travel England’s CEO, Danny Williams and his colleagues. 

The visit comes hard on the heels of Active Travel England’s welcome  award to the Combined Authority of almost one million pounds over and above the region’s draft allocation.   

Fenland District Council, CamCycle, Healthwatch, the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and the two Highways Authorities, Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council were among those represented at the meeting, as well as the Combined Authority’s transport and active travel teams. 

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson: 

It wasn’t just that our region was proud and honoured to be hosting the CEO of Active Travel England and members of his team, it wasn’t just that this was an important meeting with the guys who actually fund our region’s active travel ambitions, but it was because those eager faces in the room – Combined Authority friends and partners all sharing the passion to change how people of every ability get about our beautiful region – were there to work together creatively, positively and smartly to bring a transport revolution about”. 

Greeted at Peterborough Station by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Deputy Mayor Cllr Anna Smith, the ATE delegation was shown existing and planned active travel infrastructure in the Peterborough Station Quarter, which is set for a major redesign with the needs of walkers, cyclists and wheelers at its heart. 

Because active travel isn’t the same for everyone, different perspectives and insights emerged through presentations and Q&A sessions, including inclusive solutions to make active travel more accessible for people of all ages and abilities.    

“The ATE team was particularly impressive in answering questions very openly and honestly.  The overall message from this thoroughly modern, toned, and healthy new arm of the Department for Transport was that there’s a helping hand at the end of it – and Active Travel England is ‘here to assist’. That was encouraging for officers used to a more traditional Whitehall that in the past could seem distant and rather aloof”, said Dr Johnson. 

“It was great to be in the same room as so many people fired up by active travel. As a medical doctor, the promotion of fitness and wellbeing is very close to my heart, and the powerful link between public health and walking, cycling, wheeling or riding out in the fresh air is key to that. My passion for an active travel that dovetails with good and reliable public transport really drives the work that we do here at the Combined Authority. We’re not just pro Active here – we’re proactive!”

Deputy Mayor Cllr Anna Smith, Chair of the Transport & Infrastructure Committee:

“It was wonderful to welcome so many people with an interest in active travel to our region, to share good practice and learn from each other.

When I was an undergraduate, like most other students, I had a hand-me-down bike which was so grim it never actually got stolen, and got me around well enough. But then I lost the habit when I was living 30 miles out of Cambridge and commuting, because the town I was living in barely saw a cyclist.

Even in a so-called cycle-friendly city like Cambridge, I was nervous about braving cars and buses, and crowds of pedestrians on shared-use paths. And I was put off by the idea that cycling any distance was really only for people with expensive road bikes and a lycra cycling kit.

It took a holiday in Belgium – where I regained my confidence on a car-free cycle route – to help me restart cycling back at home.

And there are so many people like me. People who would like to cycle but are put off by safety fears or by lack of infrastructure. By the sense that cycling is only for the sporty few rather than also being a great way of getting about.

That has to change. Not everyone will choose, or be able, to cycle, wheel, walk or ride, but we must try all we can to remove the barriers to active travel for all, including those with different levels of ability. And we need to do all we can to support that not just in our towns, but in our rural areas too.

I’m proud of the work we have started to do at the Combined Authority, in collaboration with so many partners at yesterday’s meeting. But there’s still so much more to do and our discussions in the meeting yesterday will be a part of that.
The more people choose active travel, or public transport, the more we reduce congestion, the more we improve air quality, the more we fight climate change. And the more we improve people’s health and wellbeing.”