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Cycle and walk rather than drive, urges transport secretary Grant Shapps

Cabinet minister also confirms Fix Your Bike vouchers will start being issued this month

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged people in England to prioritise cycling and walking rather than using cars as the country continues to emerge from lockdown.

Appearing before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee yesterday (video here), the Conservative MP repeated his call for commuters to avoid public transport where possible.

He emphasised that people should try and use active modes of travel to avoid streets becoming gridlocked, with the cabinet minister saying that latest figures showed that motor vehicle use had already returned to 70 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.

He told MPs: “We saw an extraordinary 100 per cent increase in the number of people cycling during the week at the height of the lockdown and a 200 per cent increase at weekends.

Underlining that the government wants local authorities to prioritise cyclists over motorists, he said: “We want to make sure we are reprioritising how local authorities think about road space.”

He asked the question, “What makes people cycle? It’s easy to grab the bike, and there’s space to cycle.

“The trick is to keep this going, and not just make it a ‘remember the lockdown, remember when everyone cycled?’.

“That requires more than just the extraordinarily large sums of money that we’re putting into cycling. It also requires a change in culture.”

As we reported earlier this week, the DfT is now inviting bicycle repairers to sign up to its Fix Your Bike scheme, which will see people in England entitled to claim £50 vouchers to go towards the cost of making a bike that has perhaps languished unused in a garage or shed back on the road again.

> Details finally emerge of government's Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme – and it doesn't sound as easy as riding one

Shapps told the Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking, that the first vouchers would be issued by the end of the month.

The transport secretary said, however: “We have a problem. There is a massive waiting list for everything to do with bikes.”

He added that the 500,000 vouchers would be released in stages, “to prevent the bike repair network being completely overwhelmed.”

Shapps also outlined that the government is “actively looking at” making Bikeability training available to adults throughout England.

Cycling UK policy director, Roger Geffen, commenting on that latter point, 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.”

Simon joined road.cc 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.

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28 comments

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Bungle_52 | 3 years ago
0 likes

"Trafford Council removes A56 pop-up cycle lane after drivers complain"

Actions speak louder than words.

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David9694 | 3 years ago
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agree with Siracha. Just need to go back 100 years and make that the approach from the get-go. 

of course, if bus lanes had been progressed more rigorously upstream, a lot of the pop-up "cycle" lanes (which show every sign of popping down again) would not have been needed. 

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Sriracha | 3 years ago
8 likes

"Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged people in England to prioritise cycling and walking rather than using cars..."

Sweet, but he's the sodding Transport Secretary, he needs to be changing transport priorities, not simply urging us to to shoulder his portfolio reponsibilities.

He could start by grabbing the issue by the balls - parking. If you control parking you control the journey because if there is nowhere to park (guaranteed) then people won't take the car. It'd be like flying a plane - no airport, you're not flying there.

Imagine if there was no street parking - the only place to park a car was a car park (and your driveway). So you can only contemplate driving to a destination if there is a car park there. Just like motorways and dual carriageways, the road is a thoroughfare, not a car park.

The road surface stops being an uncosted parking amenity, shops and businesses that depend on it for their business model will need to think again. Do they now prefer to cater to customers arriving by bike, how do they change their own priorities? Or is it still economic to pay the true unsubsidised cost of catering to a motoring clientele, and rent or buy off-street car car parking space?

And of course, just imagine cycling down streets with absolutely no parked cars.

Of course it is not that simple, but the assumptions need to change. The first one is that you can just own and use a car whilst storing and parking it largely at public expense. Suppose they got rid of all "yellow lines" parking restrictions and inverted the whole system - you can only park where there are (say) blue lines, maybe residential cul-de-sacs and the like, with a 20mph limit?

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
7 likes

Sign me up for that!

We pay a lot for the construction and upkeep of decent roads (ignore the potholes for the sake of argument) and then a sizable proportion is given over to private use to temporarily store cars. It's time for a re-think.

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Sriracha replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
6 likes

Yup. Just think of all those rows of parked cars lining both sides of so many roads. Now imagine they are clear, protected cycle lanes instead.
Suddenly it is entirely reasonable for parents and young kids to pootle to school/shops/grandparents by bike, etc. That is "changing priorities" Mr Shapps.

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brooksby replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
5 likes
Sriracha wrote:

"Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged people in England to prioritise cycling and walking rather than using cars..." Sweet, but he's the sodding Transport Secretary, he needs to be changing transport priorities, not simply urging us to to shoulder his portfolio reponsibilities.

But isn't that how the Govt has dealt with pretty much every aspect around the current pandemic?  Give the fuzziest or most vague or complicated instructions, then say that you are leaving it up to "Good Old British Common Sense".  That way, if/when it all goes belly-up, its not the Govt's fault, its the fault of the people for not using proper common sense.

Grant Shapps (or shall we call him Michael Green or Sebastian Fox? google it) can recommend that people prioritise cycling/walking.

Except they won't make the change because nobody's threatening them with a big enough stick, or actually ordering them to.  And then when it all fails, he can just say it's not his fault if people didn't prioritise appropriately...

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Simon E replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
4 likes
Sriracha wrote:

"Transport secretary Grant Shapps has urged people in England to prioritise cycling and walking rather than using cars..." Sweet, but he's the sodding Transport Secretary, he needs to be changing transport priorities, not simply urging us to to shoulder his portfolio reponsibilities.

So he expects everyone to think "Right, Grant Shapps has asked nicely on the telly so I'll put myself out and do that".

Just like everyone will stop speeding, drug dealing or leaving piles of litter in public parks and on beaches.

Meanwhile, according to Cycling Mikey 23,000 drivers were reported via the Met's online portal in 2019. road.cc now has 430 Near Miss of the Day videos, the vast majority of which cause even the most experienced of us to shudder.

Yesterday a friend of mine reported an HGV overtaking him on double white lines towards an oncoming car. A totally unnecessary manoeuvre on a winding tree-lined road that the driver would have known well (it's a local business).

These are the things that need to change so that anyone and everyone can walk and cycle in safety. If the Transport Secretary doesn't push to make it happen then absolutely nothing will change.

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Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago
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One has to ask, why he didn't mention bikes of the motorised variety? We need more people out of their cars and walking, cycling & motorcycling/scootering to work. Queues of cars with one occupant is utterly mindless......

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OnYerBike replied to Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago
2 likes

I can see a number of reasons why motorcycling/scootering isn't a solution to the current situation:

1) You need more training - at least CBT, in many cases more

2) Much higher cost - not just the machine, but insurance, equipment, etc.

3) There's certainly an image issue - scooters are for "youths" (of the worst variety) and full sized motorcycles are for middle aged men in leathers. Although still not at European levels, I do think the message is beginning to get through that cycling is a normal form of transport for normal people.

In short, in terms of both public perception and practicality, it's much easier to tell people to hop on a bicycle than to hop on a motorbike.

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quiff replied to OnYerBike | 3 years ago
1 like

Exactly. If you already have a motorbike, then yes, it's probably a better bet than using your car - but you probably don't need the government to tell you that. But government probably doesn't want to encourage the whole population to go out and buy one.     

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Awavey replied to Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago
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Select committee evidence giving sessions arent press conferences,even if some MPs who take part like to grandstand abit in them,if Shapps didnt mention them,and the chair normally tries to keep the person giving evidence close on the point being asked rather than ramble endlessly about other things, it's because noone on the committee actually asked a question about it

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eburtthebike replied to Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago
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Velophaart_95 wrote:

One has to ask, why he didn't mention bikes of the motorised variety? We need more people out of their cars and walking, cycling & motorcycling/scootering to work. Queues of cars with one occupant is utterly mindless......

The only advantage motorised bikes have is their ability to cover long distances rapidly.  They don't reduce pollution, they're noisy and intrusive, they don't improve health or safety.

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fukawitribe replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
1 like

I presume you're talking ICE motorised bikes, and not electrical motor assisted bikes ?

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eburtthebike replied to fukawitribe | 3 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:

I presume you're talking ICE motorised bikes, and not electrical motor assisted bikes ?

Since the op only said motorised, not ebikes, yes, but since ebikes don't go as fast or as far as ICE bikes, I thought that was implied.

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mdavidford replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
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eburtthebike wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:

I presume you're talking ICE motorised bikes, and not electrical motor assisted bikes ?

Since the op only said motorised, not ebikes, yes, but since ebikes don't go as fast or as far as ICE bikes, I thought that was implied.

What about these though?:

https://www.motorcyclenews.com/advice/best/electric-motorbikes/

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Shades | 3 years ago
1 like

I think this little experiment from lockdown, where more people were cycling, has proved one point; from a perspective of 'cycling as an alternative means of transport' (infrastructure, culture, cost/ease of motoring, understanding of health benefits etc), given the surge back to motoring, the conclusion is that we're not 'fit for purpose'.

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MattieKempy | 3 years ago
6 likes

Well, asking the Great Unwashed to do something is a total waste of time as most of them are so far up their own arses that they won't hear anyway.
The only way to effect change is to legislate through prohibitive taxation on fossil fuels, tolls on car journeys of less than, let's say, 5km, and excellent cycling and walking infrastructure.
Given that the government are so invested in lining their own pockets and given that the oil industry has them in thrall, none of the above will happen. Basically we need to prepare ourselves for a the continuation of a world full of cars, pollution and anti-cycling prejudice.

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maviczap | 3 years ago
3 likes

Yes of course Grant, everyone will go with your suggestion............. Not!

M2 to Margate today

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ktache | 3 years ago
1 like

Ahh well, too late, whatever name you have decided to call yourself.

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hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
7 likes
Grant Schapps wrote:

We have a problem. There is a massive waiting list for everything to do with bikes.

He should ask XR how they manage to do pop-up bike lanes in mere minutes.

If they're serious about getting people walking and cycling (which I'm not sure that I believe) then I don't see why they can't make changes rapidly. In terms of tax, I'd like to see much higher rates of tax on petrol and diesel (maybe combine it with scrapping VED) which would penalise unnecessary journeys. Can't see it being popular, though.

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Sriracha replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
3 likes

Moving the tax from VED to fuel is an excellrnt idea. The only objection used to be that the VED disc was an annual hurdle to ensure your car was MOTd and insured. Well, it's all checked online now, and there is no disc anymore to alert local tax vigilantes anyway.

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
0 likes

Just seen this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53169600

Quote:

The CCC chair, Lord Deben, says it makes sense to raises fuel prices when the cost of oil is low - and use the proceeds to subsidise low-emissions vehicles.

He said: “It seems perfectly clear that we should increase the tax on the very low oil prices we have at the moment. We need to make people who choose the right way to do so cheaper than those who choose the wrong way.”

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Awavey replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
2 likes

I think tbf that Shapps response, as the full quote went on to mention the delays in lack of stock of buying new bikes & servicing delays, was specifically in answer to a question posed on the voucher scheme not popup lanes, its at 10:58 on the video replay if you want to watch it.

And my LBS is booked up till at least autumn for servicing, so he is right on that point.

whilst all the popup bike lanes Im seeing made by my local authorities decisions are turning up very quickly, almost overnight in some cases, and some of the temporary ones are already being made permament now.

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HarrogateSpa replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
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It's great if your local authority is getting on with it. All we get from North Yorkshire is waffle and delay.

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dodpeters replied to HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago
2 likes

Tory run councils refuse to implement Tory government policies, you couldn’t make it up.

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago
14 likes

“That requires more than just the extraordinarily large sums of money that we’re putting into cycling. It also requires a change in culture.”

Well, at least the second sentence is true.  The amount of money is only extraordinary in terms of traditional funding for cycling; in real terms, it's still very little and insufficient and not long term, and pales into insignificance compared to the amounts to be spent encouraging driving or HS2. 

We need a coherent long term plan, significant sums guaranteed for the next ten years to start with, supported by changes in the law to make drivers behave, not one off amounts and nice speeches.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
2 likes

We know what we need but, unfortunately, that's not what we are going to get. 

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HarrogateSpa replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
3 likes

I agree, but I'd say cycling is the one modest positive where this government is concerned.

It makes at least some difference to have a Secretary of State for Transport standing up and urging people to cycle. It's good that they've provided at least some money and put a short timetable on it being spent by local authorities.

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