England’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty Appointed To Active Travel England Advisory Panel

England’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty is to join a new panel advising the Department for Transport’s arms-length agency Active Travel England.

“Exercise improves health, and Active Travel England’s mission is shared by the health service,” said Sir Chris, who many Britons will know from his time fronting the U.K. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (He became notorious for the phrase “next slide please” as he introduced graphs during his presentations alongside the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior government figures.)

“We all want to see more people incorporating active travel into their day as a way to keep mentally and physically fit,” added Sir Chris. He was previously the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser from 2017 to 2018.

The other members of the new advisory panel are West Midlands’ Mayor Andy Street, Chair of the Office of Rail and Road Declan Collier and Arup’s Global Transport Leader Isabel Dedring.

Welcoming the creation of the panel, Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman said: “Active travel is a key part of achieving so many of government’s top priorities, so we want to link up with those agendas from the very start.”

Boardman added: “Providing low-cost, healthy travel options to get to schools, shops, and workplaces will revitalize high streets across the country and help us decarbonize at the same time.”

He described the four on the new panel as “incredible experts.”

There have been fears that the government could be about to either reduce the $4.5 billion funding settlement for Active Travel England or—less likely—abolish it entirely as part of a vaunted reduction in the size of the state.

High-profile appointments such as those of Sir Chris Whitty and Conservative politician Street could make it more difficult for the post-Truss administration to scale back on active travel.

The first meeting of the new panel takes place at the end of the month.

Earlier this week, several organizations wrote an open letter to the U.K. government urging for the protection of Active Travel England. The letter was addressed to the Secretary of State for Transport, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, stressing the importance of walking and cycling to the U.K.’s urban and rural economic growth and to society.

In a new report, the walking and cycling charity Sustrans estimated that, in the U.K. in 2021, walking, wheeling, and cycling generated more than $41 billion. This is based on the direct economic benefits of walking and cycling, reducing the cost of traffic congestion and running a car, improved health and reduced burden on the NHS, as well as fewer sick days at work.

The joint letter— calling for the protection of the cycling and walking budget, already committed in the second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy 2022—was signed not just by walking and cycling bodies but also by motoring organization AA, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and the Federation of Small Businesses.

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