New Active Travel Strategy Approved

Half a billion region-wide investment would boost the economy by £350m a year

Millions more walking, wheeling and cycling journeys would boost our region’s economy by around £350m a year while making people healthier and greatly reducing carbon emissions according to the region’s new Active Travel Strategy.

The North East Joint Transport Committee approved the new region-wide strategy covering Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham which will form the basis of future funding bids which could transform the way we travel every day for work, education and leisure up to 2035.

The new strategy aims for walking, cycling and wheeling to become the natural first choice for short everyday trips and to combine with public transport for longer journeys. The plan also sets a target for over half of all shorter journeys in the North East (under 5 miles) to be made by active travel by 2035, up from 37% in 2018/19.

By achieving an increase of 45% in active travel journeys, the region could:

  • Boost the regional economy by around £350m a year
  • Greatly reduce carbon emissions – saving around 80,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year
  • Prevent approximately 1,000 premature deaths – primarily due to increased physical activity levels for those who choose to travel actively. 

To achieve the ambitions of this Active Travel Strategy, the North East Joint Transport Committee will work in collaboration with central government, Active Travel England, and local people. The £500m package of schemes and interventions included would help to encourage more people to travel actively more often and identifies investments that would better connect these journeys to local transport stations and interchanges, which it is hoped would help more people use active travel for at least part of their journey.

Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair, North East Joint Transport Committee, said:

“The region’s new Active Travel Strategy outlines our collective ambition to make active travel the natural first choice for everyday journeys – ideally so that over half of all short journeys in the North East are walked, wheeled or cycled by 2035. If we are successful in achieving the funding we have set out to deliver this impactful programme, we would all greatly benefit from a major boost to our economy, improved public health and cleaner air quality.

“Of course, this strategy is about delivering investments which benefit local people so the proposed investments have been developed in partnership with our local authorities, ensuring that we deliver schemes that will ultimately meet the needs to local people, making it much easier for people to travel actively as much as possible.”

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets, said:

“This strategy is the first step in creating a healthier, happier and more prosperous North East. Its ambitions now need to be backed by funding to enable active travel to become the easiest and most attractive choice for shorter journeys. Such investment will enable more children to walk to school, more adults to walk part or all of the way to work, and more visitors to explore the region on foot, leading to healthier communities, stronger local economies and cleaner air for all.”

Jonah Morris, Partnerships Manager – North East & Cumbria, Sustrans, said:

“We know that we need to move around our region differently with the move to net zero. Having this strategy in place provides the roadmap for the region to make this transition. With a third of all trips under five miles being taken by car, we need to ensure active travel is the natural first choice for journeys going forward. With devolved transport powers and funding on the horizon, a joined-up approach is called for between all our local authorities and partners to ensure we create a transport system fit for the region and its future.”

The list of schemes within the new strategy includes:

  • New and upgraded infrastructure – including safer, more accessible walking, wheeling and cycling routes – including improvements across the network and more ‘active friendly’ places.
  • Better access to equipment schemes – the region is exploring initiatives such as a new region-wide bike hire scheme alongside loan and grant schemes to make it easier for local people to cycle.
  • More maintenance of the region’s active travel network – investment to ensure paths and walkways remain safe and accessible to all users. This will be achieved through accessibility audits and funds to deal with maintenance strategies and ‘spot fixes’ for problem areas.
  • Behaviour change initiatives – new programmes that encourage more people to use active travel when they can through skills training, family events, providing better access to route maps and maintaining signage on the network to help more people to travel actively for their every day journeys. Behaviour change programmes would include working on innovative programmes in partnership with the wider health, education and social care sectors.

A consultation on the new strategy ran from 4 January until 5 March and the in all, a total of 4,037 pieces of engagement were received as part of the consultation which included an in person and online event programme, stakeholder engagement and an online survey.

The North East Joint Transport Committee approved the strategy at its meeting on 20 June 2023.

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