Cycling minister, Robert Goodwill, has today confirmed High Speed 2 will see a network of cycle routes developed alongside it - but it won't be the long-distance cycle track Boris Johnson suggested.
Goodwill, who is also the minister in charge of the £43bn HS2 rail project, made the comments to Road.cc during the annual Parliamentary Bike Ride in London, which kick starts Bike Week. This year's ride had a record number of 24 MPs signed up.
However CTC's Roger Geffen has said at the current rate of spending it will take 50 years to double cycling in the UK, something the Conservative government has said it wants to achieve by 2025.
Referring to an idea first mooted by Boris Johnson, who wanted a long-distance bike route alongside the scheme, Goodwill, who is also the minister for HS2 said the rail project "is obviously going to include opportunities for cycle infrastructure", the details of which, he said, are still being worked out.
He said: "That isn't just a cycle track down the side of the railway, this is about integrating existing bridle paths and cycle ways to a network of footpath and cycling that will enable people to take advantage of the corridor that we're procuring."
"It will be looking at journeys that people are making, travel to work journeys, recreational journeys, generally ensuring that we take the opportunity that HS2 provides. People won't see HS2 as something that's cutting through footpaths and right of ways, it is something giving people the opportunity to leverage them in."
Goodwill admitted there is a huge difference in infrastructure quality around the country, and where some councils understand cycling in others, he said "there isn't a single councillor who really gets it".
He said: "As I go around the country I see some really good things but I also see some really bad things: we cycled from Kings Cross to Westminster and there was some really good cycling provision in Camden, for example, and then you go to Southwark, and there's some half decent stuff and then suddenly you get to this confusing junction and you don't know where you're meant to go."
"It's often just down to one person who decides 'we're going to make this a cycling city' or 'we're going to do what we can'".
Campaigners say a national design standard is needed to eliminate bad practice, but while Goodwill said segregated infrastructure is the ideal, and that he uses one of London's cycle superhighways each morning which, he called "great", he wouldn't be drawn on a national standard, rather enigmatically saying it is a matter of "spreading the word and making sure they understand", and of people using their votes in local elections.
He said: "We are a party of localism and it's up to [councils] to take that lead.
"I think as we get more and more people cycling, both recreationally and as a journey to work, it is starting to happen that the cycling vote is an important one, and even people that don't cycle, understand the importance of taking people out of cars."
"I think it's not going to be an overnight revolution...it's about putting the money in over a period of time so you've got incremental improvement in the infrastructure."
When asked about how recent funding cuts to cycling of £23 million will bite, Goodwill said: "We're in negotiations with the Treasury at the moment, but we do have money in the budget for infrastructure."
CTC's Roger Geffen said at the current rate of growth and spending it will take 50 years to double cycling, a target the government said it wants to achieve by 2025.
Geffen said: "We have got to radically accelerate the growth of cycling use even just to double cycle use within 10 years from its currently pathetically low level.
"The question is firstly how soon are we going to get to £10 per head, and beyond that is that funding going to come from the Treasury or from the Department [for Transport] budget? The thing that would do the most for cycling would be to lose a few road schemes because that way the money is being spent on cycling and it is not facilitating long distance driving."
Labour's Ian Austin MP, Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, struck an optimistic note about the future of cycling in the UK, saying: "I think if you said 10 years ago that there would be as many people cycling in London, a popular bike hire scheme, cycle superhighways, a mayor taking cycling seriously, I don't think people would have believed that and I think what's happening in London shows what we can achieve nationwide, with politicians committed to it."