Transport secretary “actively looking at” rolling out cycle training for everyone

Grant Shapps reveals plans on cycle training for all at committee hearing on the implications of the pandemic on transport

Addressing a sparsely populated committee room in Portcullis House, transport secretary Grant Shapps this morning outlined the changes England’s transport has had to go through since lockdown began.

While the latter half of the transport committee hearing was inevitably on buses, trains and planes, the initial focus was on reducing road danger and the government’s recommended means of travelling at this time: walking and cycling.

Many of Mr Shapps' positive comments on cycling, while welcome to the cycling community, were hardly new. It was after pressing by committee member Ruth Cadbury MP, however, that two new pieces of information emerged.

Cycling UK has long campaigned for cycle training, now known as Bikeability, to be available to secondary school pupils and adults, not just children at primary school.

The charity therefore welcomed the Transport Secretary's support for adult training, when he said he is "actively looking at this” in addition to the government’s commitment to making sure all children in England can access Bikeability training.

Cycling UK policy director, Roger Geffen, commenting on this latest mov,e said: “Cycling UK has long urged the government to extend its support for cycle training from primary school-aged pupils to secondary-age pupils, and indeed for adults wishing to take up or resume cycling in later life. This is particularly timely as secondary schools and workplaces come out of lockdown.

“Although no substitute for high-quality cycling infrastructure, cycle training can be hugely valuable in giving less experienced or novice cyclists the skills needed to handle busier roads and junctions confidently and safely, with enormous benefits for their own and everyone else's health, the economy and the environment.”

Although no substitute for high-quality cycling infrastructure, cycle training can be hugely valuable in giving less experienced or novice cyclists the skills needed to handle busier roads.

Roger Geffen MBE, Cycling UK policy director 

Another bit of welcome news for the cycling community was confirmation that the previously reported £25m cycle repair scheme would be up and running by the end of the month.

Details were sparse, beyond the fact that the government expects to issue half a million £50 vouchers over the coming months, though the Transport Secretary did warn that these would likely be in tranches given the already high demand on bike stores and mechanics, and increasing lack of parts and bikes.

Even with the new advice in England reducing social distancing to one metre from July 4, government advice on how to travel has clear hierarchy, beginning with walking and cycling, followed by driving, and then public transport only if absolutely necessary.

Despite concerns raised by Lilian Greenwood MP about the increased incidents of speeding and opportunity to make a shift in people’s transport habits, Mr Shapps said this government had no intentions to reduce motor traffic in the short term, as there was a need to keep the nation moving during the pandemic.

The Transport Secretary did however recognise there was a need for transport in England to improve its environmental record, saying it was the most polluting sector in the UK economy. Despite this acknowledgement, traffic reduction campaigners were left disappointed when he said the government was still committed to its £27bn new road-building programme, and expected reduction in pollution to come through a combination of technology and environmentally friendly driving practices.

For the short term however, it appears the government is committed to give people more opportunities to walk and cycle. Mr Shapps promised the committee he would submit further evidence on the success and failures of the £225m package for local authorities to build temporary cycle infrastructure, and is keen to build on the momentum of more people cycling by having councils place cycling and walking at the forefront of their transport planning.

In the end it was what was not said that in some ways is more important for the future of cycling in England.

With all councils having submitted bids for the temporary infrastructure funding, there was no announcement regarding which bids had been successful. Neither was there news on the promised Cycling and Walking Plan and Cycling Infrastructure Guidance – both essential documents for planning the future of everyday cycling in England.

Campaigners and cyclists will have to keep waiting for these, and can only hope they will be unveiled at the same time as the voucher announcement, which is likely next week.

For campaigners not willing to wait, they can tell their councils now where temporary infrastructure is needed: