Earlier this year Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to bring about a “golden age of cycling”, as the government hoped to reinvent the nation's attitude to transport in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
As the UK came out of the pandemic lockdown, authorities were concerned that more people would jump in their cars to avoid using public transport, causing further traffic problems in towns and cities.
The government has since announced a string of new measures and investment to get more people riding to improve congestion, pollution and public health.
On Tuesday (July 28), Johnson officially launched the “cycling and walking revolution” with a £2 billion investment to be spent on thousands of miles of cycle lanes, cycling lessons for children and adults and plans to strengthen the Highway Code to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
The announcement has been met with broad support from cycling campaigners.
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.
“But to build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels.
“That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel – so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”
Boris Johnson's cycling announcement
The key headlines from Johnson’s announcement are:
- Building thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities, but also setting a higher standard for cycling infrastructure to be overseen by a new inspectorate, and improving the National Cycle Network.
- Boosting investment by creating a long-term cycling programme and budget to guarantee a flow of funding.
- Makes the streets safer by strengthening the Highway Code to protect cyclists and pedestrians, legal protections for vulnerable road users, raising safety standards and lorries, and working with police and retails to tackle bike theft.
- Helping local authorities to crack down on traffic offences, increasing powers of metro mayors over key road networks
- Creating more low traffic neighbourhoods to improve air quality and reduce traffic, reduce rat running, lowering traffic near schools and funding 12 new areas to become cycle-friendly ‘mini-Hollands’. Also creating at least one zero-emission transport city centre.
- Encouraging 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 further or who are less fit.
The government also published new higher standards for cycling infrastructure. Projects which are mainly paint, which make pedestrians and cyclists share the same space, or which do not make a meaningful change to the status quo will not be funded under the new guidelines. Active Travel England, a new inspectorate, will be responsible for the cycling budget and ensuring money goes towards high quality infrastructure.
Chris Boardman responds to government cycling announcement
British Cycling policy adviser Chris Boardman said: “The Prime Minister promised back in May that Britain was about to enter a golden age for cycling, and the package of measures announced today shows exactly the level of ambition required to transform the country.
“Many will focus on the health benefits of more people getting around by bike or on foot, but we know that these are changes which reap dividends in all walks of life, not least the quality of the air we breathe, the congestion on our roads and the economic benefit for shops, cafes and bars.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work, campaigning and patience, but in truth the hard yards start now. Recent trials with temporary bike lanes show that now, more than ever, we need to hear from those saying yes to safer, healthier and cleaner streets, and less from those standing in the way.”
The announcement has also been welcomed around the UK, including Sheffield.
Dame Sarah Storey, Sheffield’s active travel commissioner said: “I welcome the new momentum from the government announcement, and we’re poised to deliver a network of active travel routes and neighbourhoods that will allow the transformation of South Yorkshire. It has taken the tragic consequences of a global pandemic to illustrate exactly how increased levels of active travel can benefit us all and highlight that we simply cannot afford to ignore its benefits, for our communities now and the next generation.”
The government is also launching the highly-anticipated Bike Repair Voucher scheme, with cyclists able to apply for their £50 discount from Tuesday night.
Riders can use the voucher to repair their old or failing bikes, as the government hopes it will encourage more people to take up two wheels.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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