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Banish cars from the road and make cities cycling-friendly, bus chief urges

“The question is: is the road dedicated mainly to cars? Or is it dedicated to bicycles, and public transport and buses?” asked the Go-Ahead Group’s chief executive Christian Schreyer

The British government should banish cars from urban roads and instead aspire to the Netherlands’ cyclist-friendly cities, according to the chief executive of the Go-Ahead Group, one of the UK’s largest public transport companies.

Christian Schreyer, who took over the reins at the Newcastle-based bus firm in November last year, has argued that cycling and public transport should be prioritised if the UK is to effectively tackle the climate crisis and clean the air in its cities.

The Telegraph reports that Schreyer also suggested that the British government should adopt policies used in European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands where, he says, travelling by bike or bus is regarded as the norm.

> Cycling levels dropped in England because “short-sighted councils pulled out protected lanes”

Schreyer pointed out that in the Netherlands, “all buses downtown are fully electric”, quiet and reliable.

He continued: “Next to the bus you have your bicycle lane and then you have pedestrians. No one complains anymore.

“For me, there's no alternative if you want to, on the one hand, achieve the climate targets and on the other hand, you want to make cities attractive again.”

The bus chief also emphasised that in order to prioritise public transport and active travel in cities, motor traffic needs to be drastically reduced. He noted that a bus can replace between 40 and 50 cars while a train can replace 400, while a reduction in car usage would enable more bus routes and therefore lower fares for passengers.

“The question is: is the road dedicated mainly to cars?” he asked. “Or is it dedicated to bicycles, and public transport and buses?

“If the UK wants to achieve its targets, if we want to have cities where we have a high standard of living where people like to live, we need to reduce the noise, we need to reduce emissions and we need to reduce car usage.”

> Bodmin council admits getting more people to cycle, walk and take public transport is 'unrealistic' - so decides to build another road instead

Earlier today we reported that leading cycling campaigners have called on the government and local councils to provide proper, sustained backing for cycling infrastructure, after figures emerged that showed that cycling levels have fallen in England to pre-pandemic levels.

“During the pandemic, when there were fewer cars on the road, the public took to their bikes,” said Sally Copley, the executive director of external affairs at active travel charity Sustrans.

“It’s sad to see this return to expensive and pollutant car-use, especially as the urgency for alternatives has only increased, alongside the cost of living.”

Cycling UK’s chief executive Sarah Mitchell blamed the drop in cycling numbers on the “short-sighted” decisions of local councils to remove temporary cycle lanes installed during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mitchell called on local authorities and Westminster to “learn last year’s lessons and focus on the new crisis: cost of living. More people are turning to cycling for shorter journeys to help make ends meet, but they need the safety that dedicated cycle lanes bring.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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