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Who is responsible for policy on active travel?

This is a wide-ranging policy area and covers matters such as cycling, walking, and issues around micromobility (e.g., using electric bikes, e-scooters and mobility scooters). Policy making in these areas is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but there is a reservation to Westminster when it comes to type approval for certain vehicles e.g., what sorts of vehicles can be used on roads and traffic offences.


It was announced in January 2022 that the Department for Transport (DfT) had created a new executive agency, Active Travel England (ATE) to manage walking, wheeling and cycling policy. ATE is responsible for managing the active travel budget and inspecting funded schemes on completion. ATE is also responsible for inspecting, and publishing reports on, highway authorities for their performance on active travel, as well as helping local authorities with following good practice in design, implementation, and public engagement.

At a local level, a great deal of policy making now rests in the hands of elected metro mayors (also known as combined authority mayors). There are currently nine of these in: West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, West of England, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, North of Tyne, and Tees Valley. These mayors have varying levels of autonomy in deciding what policies to pursue.

Local road networks are managed by around 300 local authorities – county, unitary and district councils – and regional transport bodies like Transport for London and Transport for West Midlands.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities also provides local authorities with general funding which can be used for local active travel, while ATE/DfT provide discreet pots of capital funding specifically for active travel.

The DfT works with the Ministry of Justice on road traffic offences, including maximum sentences.


Schedule 5, Part II, Head E of the Scotland Act 1998, as amended, prescribes those areas reserved to the UK Parliament; everything else is devolved. The 1998 Act was substantially amended in 2012 and 2016. There are no specific reservations regarding local active travel – active travel is a devolved matter for the Scottish Government. However, as noted above, there are reservations in the form of road traffic offences and vehicle type approval.


Schedule 7A, Part II, Head E of the Wales Act 2017 prescribes those areas reserved to the UK Parliament; everything else is devolved. There are no specific reservations regarding local active travel – active travel is a devolved matter for the Welsh Government. However, as noted above, there are reservations in the form of road traffic offences and vehicle type approval.

Northern Ireland

Local active travel in Northern Ireland is completely devolved, governed by separate legislation, and managed in a different way. The NI Department for Infrastructure is responsible for policy and funding.

Is there an offence for cyclists causing death by careless or dangerous riding?

Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving or wilful misconduct has been used in cases involving a cyclist causing serious injury or death. This allows for a prison sentence of up to two years. 

In September 2017, the DfT appointed independent legal expert, Laura Thomas to conduct an “urgent review into cycle safety” following a series of high-profile incidents involving cyclists. The review looked at whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists, as well as wider improvements for cycling road safety issues.

This report concluded that in order to bring cycling into line with driving offences “there is a persuasive case for legislative change to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes serious injury or death.”

The Government launched a consultation on new cycling offences in August 2018, asking whether a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling should be implemented.

As of March 2023, the Government had not issued its response to this consultation. The Government said in March 2023 that it was considering bring forward legislation to introduce new offences concerning dangerous cycling and that it would publish a response to the consultation as soon as it can.

What are low traffic neighbourhoods?

‘Low-traffic neighbourhoods’ (LTNs) have been around for many years but have only recently become known by this name. Perhaps the first one was created in De Beauvoir Square in Hackney, London in the early 1970s to make residential streets safer for children. LTNs can be created by local authorities across Great Britain using Traffic Regulation Orders created under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

LTNs are groups of residential streets, bordered by main or roads, where “through” motor vehicle traffic or “rat-running” is discouraged or removed, while every resident can still drive onto their street, get deliveries etc. This can be achieved in a range of different ways:

  • by installing planters, bollards, or other street furniture that physically block the road; and/or
  • by camera-enforced ‘gates’ that do not physically block the road, but illegal use is enforced through fines.

Local authorities provide exemptions to LTN restrictions for emergency service vehicles. Most local authorities provide exemptions to blue badge holders who need access in their ‘home’ low traffic neighbourhood. Some authorities also exempt taxis and some private hire vehicles, although this can depend on the LTN in question.

LTNs are not a new concept, although they gained renewed attention as part of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of this response, the Government encouraged local authorities in areas with high public transport use to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling; LTNs were one of a range of tools local authorities used to do this.

The Government’s Gear Change Strategy published in 2020 included a commitment to create more LTNs and to consult on creating a community right to create them. In Gear Change: one year on, it was stated that new data collected by councils with LTN schemes installed indicated that there had been significant reductions in traffic, and significant increases in cycling and walking within the LTNs.

There are now numerous examples of LTNs, particularly in London, but also in other cities in England and Scotland.

Other topics addressed in this paper

Active travel

Who is responsible for policy on active travel; what the government is doing to encourage it, including funding; its benefits; its safety; and the role of local authorities.

Cycling: general

Cycling cities and mini-Hollands; cycle to work scheme; bicycles on trains; bikeability.

Cycling: safety and offences

Liability for accidents; wearing helmets; local authority powers; registration, insurance and road tax; riding on pavements; tackling bad cycling; rules on lights and bells.


Personal safety; shared spaces; council liability for slips and falls on the pavement.


Rules for using e-bikes, e-scooters, and mobility scooters on the road; when and where e-scooter trials are happening; e-scooter safety.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

What are low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs); what are 15-minute cities; public perception of LTNs; effectiveness of LTNs.

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