Walking and cycling high on Northumberland's agenda

An ambitious strategy to get more people cycling and walking in Northumberland has been unveiled.

Thursday, 14th April 2016, 1:55 pm
From left, Coun Anne Dale; Stuart McNaughton, principal policy officer; Ruth Bendell, infrastructure manager; Northumberland County Council chief executive Steven Mason, David Hall, chairman of Active Northumberland; Coun Val Tyler; Lynn Turner, director of Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust; and Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Park.

The plan aims to embed a new sustainable travel culture in Northumberland by 2025 and encourage 90 per cent of residents to make at least one journey a week on foot or on a bike. Currently, only 13 per cent of journeys under 5km in the county are made on foot or on two wheels.

The strategy includes ambitions to secure significant long-term investment in the county, improve safety conditions, engage more women and people in their 50s, and get every school in the county signed up to a sustainable travel scheme.

Five key programmes over the next two to three years will look to build on the legacy of the Tour of Britain in 2015, improve pedestrian and cycling environments in towns and long-distance routes across the county, and encourage businesses to cater more for walkers and cyclists.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The strategy is outlined in Geared Up, a new prospectus drawn up by members of the Northumberland Cycling and Walking Board, which takes a strategic overview of all matters related to active travel across the county.

Members include Northumberland County Council, Active Northumberland, Sustrans, Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland National Park, Northumberland Tourism, and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, with support from Natural England.

The board will pursue some ambitious targets for inward investment, to pay for future improvements to cycling and walking networks.

The aim will be to secure £5million each year by 2020, which equates to £15 per head per year.

Coun Anne Dale, chairman of the council’s walking and cycling board, said: “This is a high-level plan to develop a true walking and cycling culture in Northumberland.

“Simply put, we want to see more people of all ages getting around on bikes and on their own two feet, using cars less and exercising more. The benefits are almost limitless.”

She continued: “This plan will boost the economy, reduce car dependency, improve our air quality, support people to lead healthier more active lifestyles, protect our rural environment, and generate significant savings for the public purse.

“A county as vast and green as Northumberland, with thousands of miles of routes and rights of way, should be synonymous with walking and cycling. Our towns are increasingly cyclist and pedestrian-friendly and we will do our utmost, together with our partners, to highlight cycling and walking opportunities, train residents as ambassadors and support families and communities where activity levels are low.”

Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Northumberland has an embarrassment of richness in its natural and historic environment and these are best experienced on foot or by bike. People come from all over the world to visit our county and we want local people to discover it afresh.

“Not all walks or bike rides need to be for long distances or to the top of a hill, but every journey has to start somewhere. Why not take that first step and experience everything this wonderful county has to offer on your own steam?”

The document comes hot on the heels of the Government’s new cycling and walking investment strategy, published last week, which sets out proposals to make the two activities the natural choice for shorter journeys by 2040.