Ruth Cadbury, the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling & Walking (APPGCW), has urged transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris to implement temporary protected cycle lanes in towns and cities during the coronavirus pandemic, as has happened in other cities around the world. Her appeal, however, was met with a very non-commital response.
Cadbury, the Labour MP for Brentford & Isleworth, put the question to the minister, whose responsibilities include cycling, in a remotely-conducted transport committee evidence session today.
“We would like to see some encouragement [for cycling], because it makes logical sense in urban areas, to encourage cycling in particular and some of the cycle companies like Brompton have made their services free to essential workers,” she said.
In recent weeks, with traffic levels falling in countries around the world due to restrictions on travel as a result of COVID-19, cities including the Colombian capital Bogota, New York City in the US and Berlin in Germany have all introduced temporary cycle lanes.
And as we reported earlier today, the UK has likewise seen a sharp drop in motor traffic on the roads, accompanied by many people who still have to go into work due to the essential nature of their jobs switching to bikes for their commute to avoid crowded public transport.
Cadbury asked the minister: “There is a suggestion for segregating space temporarily on some roads to create safe space for cycling, whether that’s being considered in the department at the moment?”
Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP for Daventry, gave what might charitably be described as a non-committal response to the issue of temporary segregated cycle lanes, but reinforced that the government was encouraging people to ride their bikes as part of their permitted daily exercise.
He said: “I’m fortunate to have the cycling responsibilities in the Department [for Transport], and I am very keen that when people take their one exercise a day, if they can, cycling is a very good way of getting good exercise in a relatively short period of time.
“I’ve seen reports both online and elsewhere where local authorities have been considering exactly the proposals that you raise.
“I can’t say that we’ve encouraged that from the centre, but we are absolutely encouraging that if you can make your one exercise a day a not too long, sensible, socially distanced cycle ride, then we would encourage that.”
“And it does give an opportunity for transport for essential workers who may not normally need to cycle,” Cadbury pointed out.
“Absolutely,” said the minister. “And I’m sure that members of the committee would have seen the email from Brompton Bicycles today, they are raising money online to try and get to £400,000 to provide free bicycles to NHS workers.
“We want to encourage this as much as we possibly can,” he added.
Brompton launched its Wheels For Heroes fundraising drive last week and has so far raised more than £125,000 to help it produce an additional 1,000 bikes free for hire for NHS staff.
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.