The road safety charity Brake has called on the government to accelerate efforts to make it easier and cycle for their daily journeys as new official figures reveal that nearly everyone who walked or cycled more during the lockdown earlier this year planned to keep up the habit.
The National Travel Attitudes Study from the Department for Transport (DfT) found that 39 per cent of people were walking more between May and July, and 38 per cent were walking more, compared to before the outbreak of the coronavirus in the UK.
The quarterly survey found that 94 per cent of those who had increased their active travel planned to continue to walk or cycle more in the future than they had done before the COVID-19 crisis.
The government has called on local authorities to provide safer infrastructure for people on foot or on bike, including by reallocating roadspace away from motor vehicles, to encourage people to use active modes of travel, rather than take public transport or return to their cars.
However, schemes such as emergency bike lanes or low traffic neighbourhoods have met with small but vociferous local opposition – typically claiming that they cause more congestion, even though levels of motor traffic now are higher than they were before lockdown – and in some cases have led councils to remove such initiatives.
Highlighting that there is a risk of missing the opportunity the pandemic presents to change the way we travel, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, said: “Walking, cycling, and public transport are at the heart of a safe and healthy future for our communities and we must use all the policy and investment levers we can to make these the natural choices for our journeys.
“The fact that more people walked and cycled during lockdown is welcome, but unsurprising, news– all of us will have seen the joyful sight of roads with fewer cars and more people getting around on foot or by bike, in early summer.
“The fact that nearly all who said they increased their walking and cycling also planned to continue doing so, after lockdown restrictions were lifted, is significant and must make Government press on with reforms, urgently.
“These figures show that lockdown provided a unique opportunity to change the way we move, for good, with public will seemingly behind reforms.
“Unfortunately, with private car use increasing since lockdown restrictions were lifted, this opportunity may have been squandered,” he added.
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.