Prime minister Boris Johnson has tonight announced how he plans to bring about the “new golden age for cycling” he promised for England in May, with the government pledging, among other things, cycle training for young and old, national standards for infrastructure, and bikes available on prescription to help tackle obesity – the latter an issue we covered earlier this evening on road.cc.
The government has also pledged to help local authorities build “thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes,” financed by spending of £2 billion on active travel announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak back in February and subsequently reconfirmed in May by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
British Cycling policy adviser Chris Boardman has hailed the announcement as “the culmination of years of work, campaigning and patience,” but warned that “the hard yards start now.”
The plans announced by the government this evening and detailed in a document called Gear Shift: A bold vision for cycling and walking, include:
Transforming infrastructure through building thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities; setting higher standards 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 ensure a guaranteed pipeline of funding.
Making streets safer by consulting to strengthen the Highway Code to better protect pedestrians and cyclists; improving legal protections for vulnerable road users; raising safety standards on lorries; and working with the police and retailers to tackle bike theft.
Supporting local authorities by empowering them to crack down on traffic offences; and consulting to increase metro mayors’ powers over key road networks.
Improving air quality and reducing traffic by creating more low traffic neighbourhoods to reduce rat running, including by consulting on communities’ right to close side streets; putting in place more “school streets” to reduce traffic by schools; intensive funding of 12 new areas to become more cycle friendly, known as ‘Mini Hollands’; and creating at least one zero-emission transport city centre.
Helping people live healthier lives by piloting a new approach in selected places with poor health rates to encourage 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 long distances or are less fit to take up cycling.
“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,” Johnson said.
“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.”
Shapps added: “We’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shift in attitudes for generations to come, and get more people choosing to cycle or walk as part of their daily routine.
“The measures we’ve set out today in this revolutionary plan will do just that. No matter your age, how far you’re travelling, or your current confidence on a bike – there are plans to help and support you.
“By helping to fix your bike – or get an electrically powered one; by increasing storage space at stations, on trains and buses; and by introducing more ways to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe, we’re making it easier than ever to make active travel part of your daily life, and leading England to become a great cycling nation.”
Reacting to the government’s announcement, 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.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.