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Cycle and walk rather than drive, urges transport secretary Grant Shapps

Cabinet minister also confirms Fix Your Bike vouchers will start being issued this month

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged people in England to prioritise cycling and walking rather than using cars as the country continues to emerge from lockdown.

Appearing before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee yesterday (video here), the Conservative MP repeated his call for commuters to avoid public transport where possible.

He emphasised that people should try and use active modes of travel to avoid streets becoming gridlocked, with the cabinet minister saying that latest figures showed that motor vehicle use had already returned to 70 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.

He told MPs: “We saw an extraordinary 100 per cent increase in the number of people cycling during the week at the height of the lockdown and a 200 per cent increase at weekends.

Underlining that the government wants local authorities to prioritise cyclists over motorists, he said: “We want to make sure we are reprioritising how local authorities think about road space.”

He asked the question, “What makes people cycle? It’s easy to grab the bike, and there’s space to cycle.

“The trick is to keep this going, and not just make it a ‘remember the lockdown, remember when everyone cycled?’.

“That requires more than just the extraordinarily large sums of money that we’re putting into cycling. It also requires a change in culture.”

As we reported earlier this week, the DfT is now inviting bicycle repairers to sign up to its Fix Your Bike scheme, which will see people in England entitled to claim £50 vouchers to go towards the cost of making a bike that has perhaps languished unused in a garage or shed back on the road again.

> Details finally emerge of government's Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme – and it doesn't sound as easy as riding one

Shapps told the Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking, that the first vouchers would be issued by the end of the month.

The transport secretary said, however: “We have a problem. There is a massive waiting list for everything to do with bikes.”

He added that the 500,000 vouchers would be released in stages, “to prevent the bike repair network being completely overwhelmed.”

Shapps also outlined that the government is “actively looking at” making Bikeability training available to adults throughout England.

Cycling UK policy director, Roger Geffen, commenting on that latter point, said: “Cycling UK has long urged the government to extend its support for cycle training from primary school-aged pupils to secondary-age pupils, and indeed for adults wishing to take up or resume cycling in later life. This is particularly timely as secondary schools and workplaces come out of lockdown.

“Although no substitute for high-quality cycling infrastructure, cycle training can be hugely valuable in giving less experienced or novice cyclists the skills needed to handle busier roads and junctions confidently and safely, with enormous benefits for their own and everyone else's health, the economy and the environment.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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