Coronavirus 'green recovery' announced as £2billion pledged to create new era for cycling

9 May 2020, 18:21

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said better air quality has been one of the few benefits of the current crisis
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said better air quality has been one of the few benefits of the current crisis. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Britons will be encouraged to cycle to work as part of a £2billion "green recovery" plan outlined by the Government.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said better air quality has been one of the few benefits of the current crisis.

Pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements and cycle and bus-only streets are among the plans for England as the public is urged to make changes to their travel habits when elements of the lockdown are eased.

Mr Shapps warned it is everyone's responsibility not to overcrowd the network, something he said could lead to a second spike and more coronavirus deaths.

He said he would be fast-tracking trials of e-scooters as a way to try and preserve this cleaner air, so that a programme originally set for next year will be brought forward to next month.

Local councils are also to receive fast-tracked statutory guidance for them to make the streets safer and increase cycle routes.

Speaking at the government's daily press conference, he said: "The national recovery will become a green recovery."

The programme aims to double cycling and increasing walking to work by 2025.

Mr Shapps said it was likely people's commute to work will change dramatically due to Covid-19.

The trial will be extended from four local authorities to "every region in the country who wants them in a bid to get e-scooter rental schemes up and running in cities as fast as possible".

It will help assess safety benefits and the impact on public spaces.

Mr Shapps also announced £10 million of additional support for car-charging points on the streets, in light of the growing popularity of electric vehicles and in an effort to "keep this quiet clean car revolution going".

Mr Shapps added that outside of London, half of all journeys are under three miles and "if cycling increased by 5%, it would mean eight million fewer car journey, nine million fewer rail journeys and 13 million fewer bus journeys".

He said he was speaking today "to provide some notice that it is very important that people think about how they get about".

The secretary also suggested that if a journey is under three miles, then people may be able to find other ways to make that trip rather than public transport.

Mr Shapps was asked if he would accept that parents will not be able to cycle to work until schools are fully up and running.

He replied: "I think it is true to say that people have, through this crisis, found a lot of different ways of working, and many more people than ever thought it was possible have discovered they've been able to work from home.

"And I imagine that quite a lot of that will continue, and possibly for quite some time, particularly as social distancing remains at the heart of making sure that we proceed with extreme caution, which is absolutely our desire."

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