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Government's £2bn investment in active travel a 'once in a generation opportunity'

By Tom Walker    11 May 2020
The £2bn investment could lead to the UK adopting Copenhagen-style city-centre planning, with cycling at its heart / Shutterstock/Jaroslav Moravcik
We recognise this moment for what it is: a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities
– Chris Boardman

The government's pledge to invest £2bn in improving the UK's cycling and walking infrastructure has been described as a "once in a generation opportunity" to create a sustainable active travel network.

The largest-ever single boost for cyclists and pedestrians, the funding aims to create a "new era for cycling and walking" and to encourage active travel, relieving the pressure on public transport.

Within weeks, the investment will see pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle-only corridors being created across England, as part of a £250m emergency active travel fund – the first stage of the £2bn investment.

The government will work with local authorities across the country to help make it easier for people to use bikes to get around. These include investment in existing plans, such as the ones by Greater Manchester (to create 150 miles of protected cycle track) and Transport for London (a “bike Tube” network above Underground lines).

Fast-tracked statutory guidance, effective immediately, has also told councils to reallocate road space for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

In towns and cities, some streets will become bike and bus-only, while others remain available for motorists. More side streets will be closed to through-traffic, creating low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce "rat-running", while maintaining access for vehicles.

Vouchers will be issued for cycle repairs, to encourage people to get their old bikes back on the road, and plans are being developed for greater provision of bike fixing facilities.

There will also be a campaign to encourage more people to look at alternative ways to travel, to walk or get on a bike for their commute instead of public transport.

Announcing the measures, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "During the COVID-19 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 for now, 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.

"We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities."

The measures have been hailed as "unprecedented" by the physical activity sector – while a number of famous faces from the world of cycling have celebrated the plans.

"If ever there was a good time to get on your bike, it’s now," said Sir Dave Brailsford, team principal of professional cycling team INEOS and former performance director of British Cycling.

"You will be helping take pressure off public transport. You will be looking after your health. You will be looking after the health of others and you will be helping the environment. Let’s all get pedalling and help Britain on the road to recovery.

Chris Boardman, the former Olympian and current Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said that the government's measures we're "the real deal", adding that “‘we have never seen anything like this before”.

"We recognise this moment for what it is: a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities," Boardman said.

"in 2017-18 more than 40 per cent of urban journeys were under two miles – perfectly suited to walking and cycling."

Cycling  Walking  Manchester  Chris Boardman  Grant Schapps 
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