'Make cycling the choice', says minister at our first Bike Week webinar

Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris addresses Cycling UKs webinar on "Building new habits for a heathier Britain"
Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris addresses the Cycling UK webinar on "Building new habits for a heathier Britain"
Speaking at Cycling UK's behaviour change webinar, Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said cycling "has never been so popular", as first £225m of active travel funding is allocated

In the first of a series of three Bike Week webinars today, the Department for Transport's Cycling Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, outlined his ambition to make active travel, including cycling, "the choice for people for short journeys" as the nation begins to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown.

The online event, entitled "Building new habits for a healthier Britain" was hosted by Cycling UK's director of behaviour change and development, James Scott. Also speaking were Jenny Box, Cycling UK's head of behaviour change; Mel Berry, co-founder of the women's fitness app Her Spirit; and Mirjam Borsboom, cycling strategist at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure.

In his opening address, Heaton-Harris spoke about the bike boom that has seen interest in cycling soar during lockdown, saying that cycling "has never been so popular".

"All over the country the public have been digging bikes out of their sheds, garages, cupboards under the stairs, and polishing them off, dusting them down and pedalling." Referring to his own leisure rides around his constituency in Daventry, he said he had "never been cycling as much as I have been... and never gone as far."

All over the country the public have been digging bikes out of their sheds, garages, cupboards under the stairs, and polishing them off, dusting them down and pedalling

Chris Heaton-Harris, Cycling Minister

Looking ahead, as more and more people return to work, the minister stressed the importance of continuing these habits and choosing active travel to reduce the strain on buses and trains. "As we start the economic recovery we're encouraging people – we need people, actually – to avoid public transport," he said. "Because of the social distancing requirements [railways] just don't have the capacity that we need."

As part of the government's stated goal to promote active travel and double the number of cycling journeys by 2025 in England, the first £225m tranche of a £2bn funding package is currently being allocated to local authorities for temporary infrastructure investment such as pop-up cycle lanes, pavement widening, 20mph speed limits and street closures. Cycling UK has learnt that every single eligible authority in England has applied for funding, the indicative allocations for which were set out last month.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's head of campaigns reacted to this news saying: "It’s great that local authorities in England are thinking about the measures they can implement to enable more people to walk and cycle whilst socially distancing, but Cycling UK are keen to see what they’ve bid for.

"The revised statutory guidance councils have to comply with makes it clear that they should reallocate road space to prioritise cycling and walking. When announcing the provisional funding allocations, it was also made clear that anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the roads will not be funded.

"Cycling UK therefore hopes local authorities have got the message, and been bold with their bids, because that’s what’s needed to enable millions more people to walk or cycle those short journeys that are too often undertaken by car”.

A recording of the webinar can be viewed here. The remaining sessions in the series focus on "Making sure cycling becomes part of the new normal" (Wednesday 10 June at 2pm) and "Making commuting by bike first choice" (Thursday 11 June at 11am), You can sign up for them on the Bike Week virtual events page.

Make a difference where you live

Local authorities where you live need your help on identifying where they should be spending their time and effort on creating cycling and walking facilities. You can help them out by using the Widen My Path tool which allows you to identify areas for improvement and also vote on the suggestions made by others.

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