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Protected bike lanes on school routes must be urgent government priority, says Sustrans

The active travel charity has called for “long-term safety barriers” to be removed, after a recent survey found that just 14 percent of parents feel very confident teaching their children to cycle on the road

Active travel charity Sustrans has urged the government and local authorities to guarantee protected cycle lanes on all main road routes to schools.

The Bristol-based charity says that a renewed focus on active travel infrastructure should be an urgent priority for Liz Truss’ Conservative government, as it would help embed new habits in people across the UK who have been forced to change the way they travel due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Sustrans’ call for more and better cycling infrastructure, especially around schools, comes in the middle of Cycle to School Week, when families are encouraged to ditch the car and ride their bikes to and from school.  

The primary aim of the annual themed week is to help foster crucial behavioural change among young people which will, it is hoped, inspire a preference for active travel that will continue into adulthood.

> Sustrans: Next Prime Minister must commit to long-term active travel funding

But for Cycle to School Week to be a success, Sustrans says, “long-term barriers” that have prevented people on bikes from feeling welcome and safe on the roads need to be removed.

According to a recent YouGov poll, just 14 percent of parents felt very confident teaching their child to cycle safely on public roads using the Highway Code. Meanwhile, 59 percent of those surveyed believe that safe cycle routes offer a key solution which would make parents feel more confident to allow their child to cycle to school.

“Engaging this generation of younger school pupils with cycling and teaching them the importance of travelling actively, will only have lasting impact if we all strive to make sure children and families feel safe and welcome on the road,” says Sustrans’ Chief Executive Xavier Bruce.

“That’s why this Cycle to School Week, Sustrans calls on Local Authority leaders and the Government to show real ambition and commit to installing protected cycle lanes along main road routes to schools.”

> Boris Johnson resignation: A blow for active travel?

Sustrans’ 2021 Walking and Cycling Index, which surveyed roughly 26,000 people, also found that 65 percent of respondents want cycle tracks that are physically protected from traffic, while 58 percent of people on low incomes would welcome more government spending on walking and wheeling initiatives.

Brice pointed out that prioritising active travel could address some of the UK’s most pressing concerns at the moment, including health problems, air pollution, and by “freeing people from the expensive and restrictive lifestyles of car overuse”.

“Parents know cycling is a great way to get about cheaply and healthily, and to connect with other people in their community, which cars simply cannot achieve,” Brice added. “Now more than ever, we must make it easier and more attractive for people everywhere to walk, wheel and cycle.

“With new leadership from Prime Minister Truss, there is fresh opportunity to renew our transport priorities for what the UK people need. It is vital active travel is embedded into in our transport system and that roads are safer for all.”

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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essexian | 1 year ago

I understand from reading an unpublished Tory policy document (I can't tell you how I got my hands on it) that Zil Lanes are to be introduced in London to ensure bankers and hedgefund managers can get from work to the wine bar without delay. 

Parking restrictions for cars costing more than £100K are also to be removed. 



ktache | 1 year ago

I think we need more barriers.

Between the heavy vehicles and the vulnerable.

ShutTheFrontDawes replied to ktache | 1 year ago
1 like

I thought the same. "We want the government to remove long term barriers on Britain's roads by installing more long term barriers on Britain's roads". Clear as mud.

Fwiw I think segregated cycle lanes are the opposite of the solution and results in drivers thinking that cyclists don't belong on the road, which we absolutely do. Drivers need to be reminded that cyclists are just as entitled to use the roads as motor vehicles, that we pay just as much to build and maintain those roads, and that our safety is more important than their punctuality.

chrisonabike replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
1 like

Well... driving is the problem for cycling.  And drivers do need their awareness improving.  And in a previous incarnation of UK infra in the 30s your fears came true - infra was built quite definitely with the intent of "removing the cyclists from the road".  However the "plot" was probably irrelevant -  cyclists left the roads not via legislation, but because it rapidly became increasingly unpleasant, felt dangerous (and was more dangerous than now) and ... look at the bright future!  A prestigious, convenient and now (just) affordable car!

If you're happy with the couple of % of folks (us and our pals) who already cycle regardless then your position is logical.  Might be self-defeating though.  Drivers - when they consider cyclists at all - already feel to some extent that cyclists don't belong on the roads!

I think mass cycling would benefit us all.  The only practical solution I'm aware of to achieve that is separate protected infra.  That is a proven solution - not just for stopping the decline but for getting people to cycle again.  But that's a lot of money and work, an addition to the tarmac we already have etc.  So why is it needed?

While there are some dreadfully careless and also criminal drivers, if there are enough drivers they'll just hit stuff.  Consider all the houses, bridges and bollards!  It's just a case of "our infra + enough humans driving vehicles".  So "police and train it better" probably won't fix things (enough).  And how would you get "more awareness" in drivers?  Well... get them or their friends and family cycling might help.  But then we need to break in to that virtuous circle...

Cycling is actually a safe activity - but most people just don't feel safe or enjoy cycling around motor traffic.

Finally - our roads and public infra are actually not particularly convenient for cycling.  Cycling actually needs to compete with some motor journeys for change - that means it has to be very convenient e.g. facilitate more direct routes (without traffic lights!). With proper, professional cycle infra people who actually use it don't feel like second class citizens.

Safety | 1 year ago

"Brice pointed out that prioritising active travel could address some of the UK’s most pressing concerns at the moment"
Unfortunately Liz has quickly proved she is no more capable of seeing the big picture than any of her predecessors.
However I'd loved to be proved wrong.

brooksby replied to Safety | 1 year ago

I'm not all that convinced that she has even realised that there is a picture to look at (big or small)... 

I love my bike | 1 year ago

found that 65 percent of respondents want cycle tracks that are physically protected from traffic . . .

Bikes are TRAFFIC argh!

Hopefully this isn't just short-sighted - car drivers park anywhere, so protected bike lanes around schools will be perfect for drop-off, in addition to using the pavements etc!

Also, as with everybody else, child cyclists need to feel & be safe away from a few cycle tracks - only driver behavior according to HC will help that. Likewise, motorways aren't the only roads that motor vehicles use!

hawkinspeter | 1 year ago

I can't see Truss being interested unless it helps her rich friends

chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago

Bikes clearly aren't a part of "growth" for this lot.  And any of the last lot for as long as I can remember.

I'm beginning to think that if you want more for "cycling" what you need are more e-bikes and super-e-bikes which each require hundreds of kilowatts of electricity to run and cost 15 grand and up a pop.  If people were buying those that might get businesses and then politicians interested.

Oh, wait...

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