Background to the report

Active travel describes everyday journeys made by walking, wheeling, or cycling. It includes trips that are made by foot, pedal-cycles, e-cycles, adapted cycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and push-scooters. Active travel is a low-carbon way to get around and offers many benefits compared with other forms of transport. Government believes active travel has potential to support its wider strategic priorities to increase physical activity, tackle obesity, improve air quality, level up, and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Alongside a broad objective to deliver a world-class cycling and walking network in England by 2040, DfT has set four specific objectives for active travel, which are to:

  • increase the percentage of short journeys in towns and cities that are walked or
  • cycled from 41% in 2018-19 to 46% in 2025, 50% in 2030 and 55% in 2035;1
  • increase walking activity to 365 stages per person per year in 2025;2
  • double cycling from 0.8 billion stages in 2013 to 1.6 billion stages in 2025; and
  • increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 who usually walk to school
  • from 49% in 2014 to 55% in 2025

Scope of the report

It is six years since DfT published its first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in 2017 and two years remain in the current funding period, to March 2025. This report examines whether DfT is set up to achieve its ambitions for increased walking, wheeling and cycling in England by 2025. We have assessed:

  • DfT’s strategic approach to active travel
  • progress made against DfT’s objectives for active travel since 2017
  • progress in tackling the barriers to uptake of active travel


In recent years DfT has raised its ambition for active travel in England. In doing so it has recognised areas where its performance must improve. Although active travel schemes have the potential to deliver important benefits, in practice DfT has known too little about what has been achieved and has not been able to influence the local delivery of schemes consistently. This has led to patchy delivery of active travel schemes, and it is unlikely that DfT’s objectives for increased active travel by 2025 will be achieved.

Active Travel England has the potential to be a catalyst for increasing walking, wheeling and cycling. DfT established Active Travel England to address long standing issues relating to the standard of infrastructure and to support improvements in the capability of local authorities. Active Travel England has made good early progress and is well-placed to address many of the issues that can lead to poor quality active travel schemes. Maintaining this early momentum from the set-up of Active Travel England will be important to securing the benefits for transport, health and the environment and achieving value for money from government’s investment in active travel.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (7 Jun 2023)

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