'We have never seen anything like this before': Chris Boardman says UK Government coronavirus cycling boost shouldn't be underestimated

The UK Government yesterday unveiled plans to boost cycling as a means to tackle the coronavirus

Chris Boardman (Chris Boardman)

Chris Boardman has heralded the UK Government's £2bn investment in cycling as unprecedented, saying "'we have never seen anything like this before".

The former Olympian and current Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester says the steps being taken will help solve short-term issues and will hopefully pave the way for longer-term problems to also be dealt with.

The UK Government said they will provide £2bn to create pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors within weeks as part of new funding to support safe transport during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vouchers will also be issued to help people pay for bike repairs and plans are being developed to make more bike fixing facilities available.

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"More important than cash, the government has given cycling as a mode of transport a new status, not for ideological reasons but for practical ones, it’s the most logical solution to short-term problems and then, if we choose, it’ll help us tackle long-term ones," Boardman told Cycling Weekly.

Alongside the investment, fast-tracked statutory guidance was published, effective immediately, which will tell councils to reallocate road space for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

"Wording in the announcement was strong, unequivocal and backed up by legislation with similarly clear wording for councils. We have never seen anything like this before, it is a step-change in the Government’s position that should not be underestimated," Boardman added.

These attempts to increase the number of people able to complete journeys either on foot or by bike are hoped to help support road, bus and rail networks, with public transport capacity to set to be restricted amid social distancing measures.

"The country, in fact, the world, has an opportunity to make a change for the better and it’s starting to look like we might just take it," Boardman said.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, made the announcement on Saturday May 9, saying: "During this crisis, millions of people have discovered cycling – whether for exercise or as a means of safe, socially-distanced transport. While there is no change to the ‘stay at home’ message today, when the country does get back to work we need those people to stay on their bikes and be joined by many more.

"Otherwise, with public transport’s capacity severely restricted at this time, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked – holding up emergency services, critical workers and vital supplies."

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