by Jamie Furlong
As more people took to walking and cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic, the unequal allocation of space in Britain’s towns and cities was exposed. From main roads to residential streets, private automobiles were seen to dominate spaces, with limited infrastructure and space for active travel such as walking and cycling. In England, the government created an Active Travel Fund to support local authorities to produce cycling and walking facilities. Schemes built have included protected cycle lanes, pavement extensions, and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods which remove motor traffic on residential street schemes. Many, however, have been controversial and some have been removed following vocal opposition. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in particular have been the subject of sustained campaigns in the right-wing press, which has drawn on a popular ‘culture war’ framing to attack these schemes.
Amidst the controversy of active travel infrastructure, it can be easy to assume that a) most people are deeply impassioned by active travel infrastructure; b) there is substantial polarisation on this issue. It is therefore important that research conducted by the Active Travel Academy accurately captures the extent to which attitudes towards active travel and other transport funding vary across London’s diverse demography and geography. With this in mind, our research has applied statistical techniques (multi-level regression modelling) to TfL-funded survey data (June-July 2021, N=12,470) to ask the following questions: what demographic characteristics are associated with positive or negative attitudes to funding cycling, walking and driving infrastructure? How does this vary across inner and outer London? Are attitudes to active travel funding significantly different amongst respondents living in or near new active travel schemes, and how does this vary demographically?
We have presented the key findings of this research to TfL and will also be submitting findings to peer-reviewed academic journals. Some key results so far include finding that: a) attitudes towards institutional support for cycling and driving infrastructure are more polarised than attitudes towards walking/public transport; b) age is important in shaping transport attitudes, with older residents in London overall more negative towards active travel support than younger residents. This parallels generational gaps on other political and social issues.