The Government has brought forward plans to invest heavily in walking and cycling, to relieve the pressure on public transport.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps used the Government’s daily Covid-19 briefing to unveil plans to boost greener, active transport.
Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks as part of an initial £250 million emergency active travel fund - the first stage of a £2 billion investment, in turn part of a wider £5 billion investment cycling and buses that was announced in February.
Capitalising on a marked increase in levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the pandemic, the Government plans will encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport to travel – helping ensure road, bus and rail networks can cope to future increases in demand as people return to work.
The government will fund and work with local authorities across the country to make it easier for people to use bikes to get around. Manchester’s Bee Network and London’s “bike Tube” above Underground lines are cited as examples of schemes that could receive funding.
Statutory guidance, effective immediately, will instruct councils to reallocate road space for significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists. More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.
Vouchers will be issued for cycle repairs, to encourage people to get old bikes out of the shed, and plans are being developed for greater provision of bike-fixing facilities.
Shapps said: “During this crisis, millions of people have discovered cycling – whether for exercise or as a means of safe, socially-distanced transport.
“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, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked.
An updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be launched by the Prime Minister in the summer, with further measures to transform cycling and walking to deliver the government’s aims to double cycling and increase walking by 2025 – including:
- The creation of a national cycling and walking commissioner and inspectorate
- Higher standards for permanent infrastructure across England
- Getting GPs to prescribe cycling and exercise
- Creating a long-term budget for cycling and walking similar to what happens for roads