07 May 2024

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has strongly criticized the UK government for what it describes as a “shocking lack of progress in making streets more attractive for walking, wheeling and cycling” in light of recent findings from the Active Lives and National Travel surveys.

While Sport England has noted a "positive" long-term increase in activity levels as per the Active Lives survey, IPPR disagrees, highlighting various negative trends, including a widening inequality gap.

IPPR points to a concerning trend of "a growing divide in activity levels based on where someone lives" with predominantly affluent areas experiencing positive trends while the number of active individuals in the most deprived areas has declined by 2.5% over the past seven years.

Furthermore, despite an initial increase over the last decade, the number of people cycling has levelled off, as indicated by the National Travel survey. Concerns have been raised by IPPR regarding a decrease in cycling participation post-Covid-19 pandemic, citing a 29% drop in cycling levels between March 2021 and December 2023 according to the Cycling Traffic Index.


“The National Travel Survey also shows that although the distance travelled by cycling has seen some signs of growth over the decade, the average distance travelled per person by cycling is the same as in 2019,” it said in a recent press release.
“This theme is picked up in the Cycling Traffic Index which highlights that the gains made during Covid-19 in getting people out on their bikes are continuing to fall with levels of cycling dropping by 29 per cent between March 2021 and December 2023. Cycling traffic levels have increased 15.5 per cent over the last decade but they are still far below where they need to be to achieve the government’s targets.”
To rectify what it believes are concerning trends, IPPR has also called on the UK government to invest more heavily to promote safer neighbourhoods and to stop its "political posturing".


Recent criticism has targeted the government's self-proclaimed "clampdown" on low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have historically been utilized since the 1970s to encourage active forms of travel such as walking and cycling. This clampdown has resulted in the government's revised 'Plan for Drivers,' which sets higher standards for local authorities wishing to implement new LTNs, though it has not been immune to criticism. In a prominent case, allegations reported by The Guardian suggested that the government had suppressed a report emphasizing the economic and health advantages of LTNs.

Subsequently, the study in question has been officially released, revealing a significant public endorsement of LTNs, with 45% of the 1,800 respondents expressing support. However, the report also underscored a lack of public awareness about LTNs, a factor cited by the UK government as rationale for the alterations to the 'Plan for Drivers.'


“There is a simple message here. Healthy places support healthier lifestyles and provide a host of other benefits to people – including providing a more affordable way of getting around,” IPPR concluded.
“The government need to act to reverse this rise in inequality, stop the political posturing overactive travel policies and put in place the investment to make it attractive and safe for people to be active in their neighbourhoods.”

Related News