Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Boris Johnson cycle voucher website crashes at launch
29 July 2020, 10:13
Boris Johnson's ambitious plan to get Brits cycling has got off to a rocky start, with the website offering bicycle repair vouchers crashing at launch.
As part of the Prime Minister's £2 billion scheme to boost active travel, the Government has made 50,000 "fix your bike" vouchers, worth up to £50, available to be used for standard servicing and repairs.
The website, fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk, was due to go live at 11.45pm on Tuesday night. However, initial efforts to access the site returned only an "Error 404" message.
Now those seeking a voucher are met with the message: "Due to extreme volumes of traffic this resource has been temporarily paused whilst we take action to improve performance for users. Please try again later today."
Cyclists flocked to social media to vent their disappointment, such that #FixYourBikeVoucherScheme was the number one UK trend on Twitter within 90 minutes of the site's scheduled launch.
The vouchers were initially due for release in June, but the Department for Transport (DfT) said last month they would be delayed until maintenance shops could handle the expected spike in demand.
The £2 billion investment, announced in February, also includes thousands of miles of new protected cycle lanes, cycle training, making electric bikes more accessible and creating the UK's first zero-emissions transport city.
Other measures include strengthening the Highway Code, improving legal protections, increasing lorry safety standards and working with the police and retailers to tackle bike thefts.
On a visit to Nottingham on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: "You always could spend more and this is the most ambitious package ever - it's £2 billion.
"What we will do is create thousands of miles of protected cycle lanes - I really believe that protected cycle lanes are essential to give people the confidence people need, many people aren't very brave or confident cyclists."
He added: "What I also want to see is more work done to get motorists to understand that we are all going to be sharing the roads, going to be sharing it with cyclists, so be respectful, be courteous.
"Things have been improving but there's still a long way to go."
Labour’s shadow cycling minister, Kerry McCarthy, said: "Tory ministers have dragged their feet and failed to seize the opportunity this crisis has posed.
"Although funding is welcome, cyclists will be rightly concerned about how long it is going to take to actually put these plans into practice."
DfT figures show there has been a surge in cycling following the coronavirus outbreak.
Compared with the equivalent day in the first week of March, cycling usage nearly doubled over the weekend of 18-19 July. On 20 July - the most recent weekday for which data is available - showed cycling at 146% of pre-lockdown levels.