Taking an Active Travel approach in Blackburn with Darwen
In this guest Insight, Dwayne Lowe, Head of Highways, Transport and Network at Blackburn with Darwen Council outlines how the borough is promoting active travel to support a pathway to a greener future.
Blackburn with Darwen sees a future where walking and cycling are first choice methods for shorter journeys and enjoying local communities in a safe and healthy way.
Over the years the Council have been successful in securing funding from a variety of sources, including Local Sustainable Transport Fund, Access Fund, Local Emergency Active Travel Fund and most recently Capability Fund.
Capability Funding comes with the main aim of initiating long term, sustainable behavioural change. As such, Blackburn with Darwen’s focus in this area has been funding initiatives alongside key delivery partners such as schools, local businesses and local communities. Adult and family cycle training, a school travel plan as well as a business travel plan have been some of the key initiatives developed to facilitate these aims.
In 2015 a significant investment delivered a 26km cycle route encircling Blackburn Town Centre. Known as the Weavers’ Wheel the network includes spurs radiating out to key employment sites as well as spokes in to Blackburn town centre linking local employment, education, retail and leisure.
Encouraging walking and cycling in Blackburn with Darwen
Improving access and uptake of walking and cycling within Blackburn with Darwen is an agenda that cuts across a number of important council priorities. Striving for higher rates of walking and cycling in the borough complements multiple varied ambitions, including priorities around physical activity, improving road safety, becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and sustainably improving connectivity within this growing borough.
As we move into the recovery phase of the pandemic, increasing walking and cycling is part of building a healthier, happier, better connected and more prosperous borough.
Blackburn with Darwen’s ‘Walking and Cycling Plan‘ aims to coordinate efforts by various stakeholders to increase walking and cycling uptake within the borough.
The Plan’s aims complement national, regional and local priorities in the realms of health and wellbeing, air quality, climate change, road safety, planning and transport.
Fundamental to Blackburn with Darwen’s approach are the following principles: taking a life course approach, aiming to increase access and reduce inequalities in walking and cycling uptake and focusing on joined up and partnership working.
The benefits of active travel
The benefits of walking and cycling are well documented. These include improved health and wellbeing, reduced carbon emissions, reduced congestion and better air quality. These are combined as well, of course, with the economic gains which have the potential to be significant especially with the rising fuel prices and general increases in the cost of living.
Active Travel is not a stand-alone strategy in Blackburn with Darwen. The borough is growing and has an established growth strategy, with a focus on improvements to housing, employment and town centres.
In order to maintain continued sustainable growth, a new Local Plan is emerging which anticipates a further 7,000 homes and 5,000 jobs over the next 15 years. One of the Core Policies of the emerging Local Plan highlights accessibility as a key strategic objective for Blackburn with Darwen, requiring developments to be accessible by a choice of active travel modes, therefore encouraging a ‘modal shift’ and reducing the need for people to travel by car.
A suite of connectivity studies have been prepared to appraise the potential impact of development on local walking and cycling networks and provide recommendations as to potential improvements which could be provided by or funded via the developments.
A clear path towards a greener future
Blackburn with Darwen have been successful in receiving two rounds of funding to support pop-up and more permanent segregated cycling and walking lanes. We have recently received our second round of funding and are currently drawing plans to develop a segregated cycle lane in North Blackburn. The scheme will look to improve links to the already established Weavers’ Wheel.
We are also developing a Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan for the whole borough to identify new routes and connectivity to our existing network and to our surrounding neighbouring authorities.
We have a dedicated ‘Connect’ website, apps and a plethora of free resources. Whilst the website promotes and hosts all sustainable and active travel for people living, working and visiting the borough, the dedicated walking and cycling apps are available to download for free. The routes on the apps are suitable for everyone from family/beginner rides to intermediate and more advanced cyclers and walkers. The apps include interactive maps and voice instructions to assist walkers and bikers in ‘real time’. Accompanying the apps are downloadable booklets.
Here at Blackburn with Darwen we’re looking forward to a prosperous, sustainable, green future.