Former Olympic champion Chris Boardman has welcomed new government plans for a “cycling revolution”.
Boardman, whose remit as the region’s walking and cycling commissioner is to encourage more people to walk and cycle in Greater Manchester, called the news “the biggest step forward for active travel that I have seen in my lifetime”.
The Number 10 plans include £2 billion of new funding for “thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, cycle training for everyone and bikes available on prescription” which will be rolled out under new plans to overhaul cycling and walking.
These pledges are backed by an increase in metro mayors’ powers over key road networks, new higher standards for cycling infrastructure – which will be overseen by a new inspectorate – as well as offering £50 vouchers to repair existing bikes.
And Boardman said: “This is the biggest step forward for active travel that I have seen in my lifetime. The widespread commitments in this plan aim to build on that and demonstrate the bold leadership needed to achieve the active travel ‘revolution’ the prime minister has promised.
“Creating a true cultural shift where cycling and walking is the default way to travel and parents are happy for their children to ride to school, requires far more than simply building bike lanes and the variety of measures laid out in these plans reflect the importance of increasing access to bikes, making local roads safer and improving air quality.”
In June 2018, Boardman and Mayor Andy Burnham launched the Beelines Network – a plan to invest £1.5 billion in the region to create 75 miles of Dutch-style segregated lanes to become the largest joined-up network in the UK.
Boardman continued: “Since 2017 and the publication of our Made to Move report, we’ve been leading the way for active travel nationally and we hope this announcement will unlock the investment and additional powers needed to enable our ten councils to realise the full potential of these plans.”
However, the scheme’s launch was marred after the website offering repair vouchers crashed due to demand.
Labour’s Shadow Cycling Minister Kerry McCarthy MP said it was “disappointing – but given the Government’s track record on these things, not surprising – that the website has crashed as it launched.
“The Department for Transport needs to get a grip of this, and soon.”
Announcing the plans, Johnson commented: “From helping people get fit and healthy and lowering their risk of illness, to improving air quality and cutting congestion, cycling and walking have a huge role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face.
“That’s why now [it] is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel – so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”