£2bn scheme announced to see roads overhaul to encourage cycling and walking
Thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, cycle training for everyone and bikes available on prescription will be rolled out under new plans to overhaul cycling and walking in England launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson today.
Measures include dramatically altering the road landscape with the introduction of thousands of miles of new cycling lanes that adhere to stricter and more advanced infrastructure standards, as well as creating “Mini Hollands” to make town centres cycle friendly. Higher standards of infrastructure entail no funding given to schemes that consist mainly of painting lines and will be overseen by a new inspectorate, Active Travel England.
The measures coincide with the government’s issuance of £50 bike repair vouchers to help both encourage people to get otherwise unused bicycles back on the road as well as introduce more revenue into the bicycle network and repair shops. The Prime Minister also iterated his intention to aim to reduce obesity by encouraging transport by exercise; walking and cycling.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From helping people get fit and healthy and lowering their risk of illness, to improving air quality and cutting congestion, cycling and walking have a huge role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shift in attitudes for generations to come, and get more people choosing to cycle or walk as part of their daily routine.”
So that more people can make cycling part of their commute or daily routine, more cycle racks will be installed at transport hubs, town and city centres and public buildings, and funding will go towards new bike hangars and on street storage for people who don’t have space to keep a bike at home.
The full list of commitments covered by the £2bn scheme include:
- Transforming infrastructure – building thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities with higher standards and improving the National Cycle Network
- Creating a long term cycling programme and budget – to ensure a guaranteed pipeline of funding
- Opening a new consultation on altering the Highway Code to include better advice and rules for pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers – improving legal protections for vulnerable road users; raising safety standards on lorries; and working with the police and retailers to tackle bike theft
- Supporting local authorities – helping them crack down on traffic offences and consulting to increase metro mayors’ powers over key road networks
- Improving air quality and reducing traffic – create more low traffic neighbourhoods to reduce “rat running”, including by consulting on communities’ right to close side streets; putting in place more “school streets” to reduce traffic by schools; intensive funding of 12 new areas to become more cycle friendly, known as ‘Mini Hollands’; and creating at least one zero-emission transport city centre
- Helping people live healthier lives by piloting a new approach in selected places with poor health rates to encourage GPs to prescribe cycling, with patients able to access bikes through their local surgery
- Increasing access to e-bikes by setting up a new national e-bike programme, to help those who are older, have to travel long distances or are less fit to take up cycling
Edmund King, AA president, commented: “As a third of drivers said they would cycle, walk or run more after lockdown these proposals should be broadly welcomed to improve safety for all road users.
“The improvements in air quality during the crisis should encourage local councils to build dedicated cycle routes, away from traffic where possible, and create ‘park & pedal’ schemes to encourage active travel into town centres for those that live further away. Half of drivers who cycle (48%) say that the cycle provisions provided by their local council are “bad”, according to a study by the AA. The survey of more than 18,000 drivers found that three in 10 drivers (31%) rode a bike with 2% taking up cycling for the first time during the coronavirus crisis.
“Getting road space balance for all forms of travel is essential so that deliveries, emergency services, disabled drivers, shoppers and buses are not hindered from conducting their crucial roles as well as promoting active travel.”
Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at Logistics UK (formerly FTA), agreed that balancing road space for all users was of the utmost importance and cautioned the Government not to overlook the logistics sector: “Logistics UK is urging government to ensure that these plans are implemented with consideration to the needs of the logistics sector. Without deliveries, businesses in cities and towns will not receive the goods and services they need to trade and get back on their feet after the effects of the pandemic. Any new road layouts must be planned very carefully and provide adequate access to roads and kerbsides for logistics vehicles.
“With more reallocation of road space to accommodate cyclists, it is vital that government encourages local authorities to ease restrictions around off peak and night time deliveries. This would ensure shops and businesses receive the stocks they need in order to return to full trading, as well as maximising the use of limited road space.”
Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We welcome this ambitious plan and the Government’s commitment to significantly improve walking and cycling for people across England. The plans contain many of the things we have been calling for and we are particularly pleased to see active travel put at the heart of the planning process. Making roads better for cycling, with more dedicated road space and long-term funding, will help to encourage more people to take to two wheels. Good quality infrastructure, that integrates with other forms of public transport, will help to lock in the changes we’ve begun to see to travel patterns in recent months and ensure sustainable options are more widely available.”