Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Getting people riding to work key part of government's post-lockdown plan, says transport secretary

Grant Shapps also expected to announce funding to councils for pop-up cycle lanes in coming days

Transport secretary Grant Shapps says that encouraging people to cycle to work will form a key part of the government’s plans to ease England out of the lockdown imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, and is expected this week to announce funding to enable councils to introduce pop-up cycle lanes.

Interviewed by Sophy Ridge on Sky News yesterday, the cabinet minister said there had been a “massive increase in active transport, in cycling” as well as a boom in sales of bikes through the Cycle to Work scheme.

And with the government grappling with how to ensure social distancing can be guaranteed on public transport once the current restrictions on movement are relaxed and non-essential shops and businesses, as well as schools, reopen, Shapps suggested that encouraging active travel may form an important part of its plans.

He said: “I’m going to be saying more about that shortly because active transport — keeping people off public transport and getting to work under their own steam — that could be a very important part of this recovery as well.”

Pop-up cycle lanes and other reallocations of roadspace away from motor vehicles towards cyclists and pedestrians are beginning to appear in some London boroughs and in English cities such as Leicester, while last week Transport Scotland announced £10 million in funding that councils there could bid for to introduce temporary cycle lanes.

> East London council to block cars to protect cyclists and pedestrians from speeding drivers during pandemic

Similar measures are already in force or have been announced in a number of locations worlkdwide including Berlin, Milan, Paris, New York City and Bogota.

The government is reported to be looking at allowing shops, offices and other workplaces that are currently shut to resume operations from 26 May, and for schools to reopen from 1 June.

Shapps said however that any easing of the restrictions would need to be accompanied by staggered working hours to avoid the morning and evening peaks that could result in overcrowding on public transport.

Currently, under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (separate legislation exists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), people can only leave their homes if they have a “reasonable excuse.”

Those include “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household" and “to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living.”

As we’ve noted before, “the emergency powers are vague and leave plenty of room for the government to interpret them and re-interpret them in any way that suits the situation.”

> Cycling dos and don'ts in a time of pandemic – how to be a responsible cyclist

However, it's clear from some media reports that there is still widespread confusion about the circumstances in which people can currently leave their homes under the regulations, which came into force on 26 March and are due to have their second three-weekly review this Thursday.

The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that people may be permitted to exercise more than once a day, and to drive to the countryside to go for a walk and stopping for a picnic while doing so.

While deaths due to COVID-19 continue to rise – the UK is expected to overtake Italy this week as the second worst-hit country globally after the US – the newspaper quoted a ‘senior government source’ as saying :“Thanks to the huge efforts of the British public we are past the peak of the virus without the NHS having been overwhelmed.

“Now we can start to look at which elements of the social distancing rules can be adjusted while keeping the rate of transmission down, so we are looking at how to lift everyone’s spirits by allowing the public to get into the great outdoors."

But as previously reported on, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance to police forces in England on enforcing the current legislation already says that such activities are likely to be considered as a “reasonable” excuse for leaving the home.

> Exercising more than once a day is reasonable during lockdown, says new CPS guidance for England

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment


jasecd | 4 years ago

I don't have much faith in this government to make good on the positive noises they're making and they will facilitate a return to car centric transport.

However in the larger cities which rely on public transport it's going to leave commuters with a choice between an increased risk of infection on public transport, even longer commutes by car or active travel. Hopefully a greater number of commuters will therefore choose active travel and we'll see a larger number of cycle commuters than pre-lockdown. 

Obviously this number could be far higher if the government made significant efforts but I can't see them doing so. My real hope is that enough people make different choices and force the government to provide proper infrastructure through sheer weight of numbers. Then better infrastructure attracts more people and so on until cycling becomes normalised.

You can but hope...

grumpyoldcyclist | 4 years ago

It's too late now, they've already had two months to sort this part out and done nothing. If you think anything is going to get done in the relatively short time leading up to the relaxation of the rules, then I feel that you're going to be disappointed.

How I'd love to be proved wrong on this one though.........

eburtthebike | 4 years ago
1 like

He said: “I’m going to be saying more about that shortly because active transport — keeping people off public transport and getting to work under their own steam — that could be a very important part of this recovery as well.”

I missed when Schapps said that because I was counting the cyclists in the background; 23 I think, more than any other mode of transport, and with all the other lies coming out of his mouth, I couldn't really keep track.

Astute observers will note that it's conditional "could" not "we will make it an important part of this recovery and fund it by transferring funds from our extravagant road programme."  In other words, it was a throwaway line in an interview where he was far too busy dodging other questions, hoping to distract the interviewer.

Latest Comments