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Boris Johnson urges councils to “crack on” with cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods

Prime Minister says government’s research highlights majority support for active travel initiatives

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says councils should “crack on” with building cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods, and that the majority of local residents support such initiatives in areas where they have been put in place.  

In May, Mr Johnson promised “a new golden age for cycling” and transport secretary Grant Shapps subsequently announced £225 million in emergency active travel funding for local authorities in England to make it easier and safer for people to get around on foot or bike during the pandemic.

> Prime Minister heralds “new Golden Age for cycling”

Some schemes have been removed by councils following small but vocal opposition, however the Prime Minister – who was said to have gone “ballistic” when the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea removed pop-up cycle lanes on either side of Kensington High Street in early December – says that research carried out on behalf of the government demonstrates widespread support, reports The Times.

> PM Boris Johnson ‘ballistic’ over scrapping of Kensington High Street cycle lane

Polling carried out by the Department for Transport among residents of areas in Birmingham, Bournemouth, Ipswich and Salford where LTNs have been introduced as well as on nearby roads, twice as many people favoured such schemes as those who opposed them.

The highest level of support was found in Salford at 65 per cent and the lowest in Bournemouth with 56 per cent, according to the research, which was conducted by Kantar Media.

Johnson, who on leaving office as Mayor of London in 2016 said that overcoming opposition to the Cycle Superhighways programme was his biggest achievement at City Hall, added: “There is always opposition to these schemes but as the polls show and as I found in London the majority support them and we should crack on.”

His call to action comes as his successor as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London prepare to appeal a recent judicial review decision which found that emergency active travel measures undertaken in the capital were unlawful, largely because they failed to take the taxi industry into account.

> Blow for active travel in London as High Court judge rules Sadiq Khan’s Streetspace initiative unlawful

Yesterday’s edition of The Times also carried an opinion piece by British Cycling policy advisor and Greater Manchester cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman in which he reinforced the case for LTNs.

The Olympic and world champion cyclist turned active travel campaigner pointed out that LTNs “have been around for decades,” and highlighted that initiatives aimed at reducing motor traffic are backed by eight in ten people, according to the government’s own research.

“Despite the huge support it is often the negative minority – arguing that these changes benefit affluent areas, that they are making congestion worse or they will stop emergency services from accessing houses – that makes the headlines. In the vast majority of cases.”

Boardman cited research from the London Borough of Waltham Forest – one of the capital’s ‘Mini Holland’ areas – which found that less than 2 per cent of residents “would rip out the filters that make it possible for older people to cross the street safely or for kids to sit on the kerb and chat with friends.”

He added: “It is true that our main roads are often too full of cars but arguing that the space outside our homes must be allowed to soak up that glut will not solve our health, climate, local pollution or congestion problems. It certainly does not make for happy places to live. Worries about putting traffic back on main roads show exactly why low traffic neighbourhoods are vital if we are to entice people out of their cars.”

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.

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