England is gearing up for ‘new era’ of cycling and walking.
With similar plans being implemented in numerous other cities, including Milan and Paris, the UK government has put the wheels in motion for a green transport revolution. When we look back on 2020, the green transport revolution is likely to be one of the key 'good news things' that happened as a result of lockdowns.
Cyclists in England are now able to go online and claim bike repair vouchers worth £50, as part of the government’s £2bn strategy to get people on their bikes. If the owners of every one of the estimated 16.5m cycles gathering dust in sheds and hallways claim their voucher, that will gobble up over £800m of the budget.
Trumpeting a “new era for walking and cycling”, the UK government has vowed to make England safer for pedestrians and cyclists, by, among other things, creating a national standard for cycle infrastructure and a new body, Active Travel England, to ensure those standards are adhered to by local authorities. No sub-standard unprotected lanes will be allowed.
According to James Scott, Cycling UK’s director of behaviour change: “The government has laid out a truly comprehensive and far reaching set of measures to improve cycling and walking in England, that will help would-be cyclists on their journey as well as the regular riders.”
However, Cycling UK says that the £2bn made available by the government was a good start, but that more would be needed if England’s cities are to rival those in bike-friendly nations such as the Netherlands and Denmark, and campaigners warn that this 'new era' won’t happen overnight.
Cycling UK is now working with the Department for Transport to change the Highway Code to make it more pedestrian and cycle friendly. One of the proposed amendments includes the introduction of the “Dutch reach”, a door opening technique that requires car users to look over their shoulders before pulling the handle, thus saving cyclists from being “car doored”.
Since lockdown restrictions were lifted, the UK’s towns and cities have been overhauling their streets to boost walking and cycling. Local authorities have fast-tracked measures, such as widening pavements and creating pop-up bike lanes, to allow people to maintain social distancing without resorting to private cars.
Here's what 4 major cities are up to:
London: The London Streetspace programme, launched in May by mayor Sadiq Khan, restricts traffic on some of the capital’s busiest thoroughfares to pedestrians, cyclists and buses only. The temporary changes, which are in review, aim to boost cycling ten-fold and could become permanent if deemed successful.
Birmingham: City officials published the Emergency Birmingham Transport Plan in May, outlining the council’s vision for a “low carbon, clean air recovery." Plans include re-allocating road space to create more room for walking and cycling, and prioritising active travel in local neighbourhoods. The city had already pledged to prohibit motor vehicles from the city centre by 2030.
Manchester: The city has received £5m of the emergency funding to spend on measures to encourage people to travel by bike or on foot. Plans include pavement extensions, one-way streets, removing through traffic on roads and adding cycle lanes. During lockdown, cycling has increased by 22 per cent in the city centre.
Bristol: The city's plans for greener transport in Bristol’s city centre have been accelerated in response to the pandemic. Much of the Old City will be pedestrianised by late summer, the mayor announced in May, while work to widen pavements across the city in order to make social distancing easier is already under way.
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