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Prime Minister heralds “new Golden Age for cycling” – starting as soon as Sunday?

Boris Johnson makes claim at Prime Ministers Questions – funding expected for pop-up bike lanes across England, as Sadiq Khan unveils plans for safe space for cycling in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has heralded a “new Golden Age of cycling” as the government prepares to relax some lockdown restrictions, with further details of its plans set to emerge as soon as Sunday. His comments come on a day when his successor as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has unveiled plans for temporary cycling infrastructure in locations across the capital.

Johnson made the remark in a reply to former transport minister Theresa Villiers during his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since his release from hospital last month following treatment for coronavirus.

Villiers, whose Chipping Barnet constituency includes several stations on the Northern Line, had urged the Prime Minister to put pressure on Khan and Transport for London (TfL) to “restore public transport capacity” in the city.

The Conservative MP was also critical of signs and announcements suggesting that only key workers should travel by public transport in the capital.

Johnson replied: “We will certainly be working with the Mayor to try to achieve that, although there must be – we will come to this on Sunday and next week – mitigations to help people who, for reasons of social distancing, cannot use mass transit.

“There will be a huge amount of planning going into helping people to get to work other than by mass transit.”

He added: “This should be a new golden age for cycling.”

Further details of how that may be achieved are likely to be forthcoming on Sunday, when Johnson is due to address the nation regarding the first easing of the lockdown restrictions in force since late March.

Measures announced specific to cycling are likely to include making money available to local authorities throughout England, outside London, for pop-up cycling infrastructure, an initiative already introduced in Scotland.

Sadiq Khan unveils London Streetscape plans, including pop-up bike lanes

Meanwhile, across London at City Hall – which Johnson would commute to regularly by bike from his Islington home when he was Mayor – his successor today confirmed the installation of London’s first pop-up cycle lanes on Euston Road and Park Lane, roads normally choked with traffic and which deter all but the most confident cyclists.

Temporary infrastructure using cones and barriers will also be put in place on routes including the planned Cycleway 9 from Brentford to Olympia, both of which are currently under construction, as City Hall predicts that cycling levels will rise tenfold once lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

The ‘London Streetspace’ programme will also see pavements widened across the city, with modelling predicting a fivefold increase in pedestrian movements and capacity on the TfL public transport potentially being just a fifth of what it was prior to the lockdown.

Khan said: “The capacity of our public transport will be dramatically reduced post-coronavirus as a result of the huge challenges we face around social distancing.

“Everyone who can work from home must continue to do so for some time to come. The emergency measures included in our major strategic London Streetspace programme will help those who have to travel to work by fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city.

“Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city.”

He added: “I urge the Government and boroughs to work with us to enable Londoners to switch to cleaner, more sustainable forms of transport – and reduce the pressure on other parts of our transport network – once the lockdown is eased.”

London Cycling Campaign CEO Ashok Sinha said: “As the lockdown is eased, London will need to get moving again, but in a manner that maintains social distancing.

“The only way to do this effectively – whilst also avoiding a calamitous return to toxic air, high carbon emissions and traffic-choked streets – is to make it easier and safer for millions of people to walk and cycle.

“Large numbers of Londoners have already taken to cycling for essential travel and exercise during lockdown; the demand is there, and the Mayor’s new Streetspace plan can and should be the start of a permanent transition to a greener, healthier and more resilient city.”

Not the first pledge to transform cycling by a Conservative PM

While we may be living in unprecedented times, this is not the first time a Conservative Prime Minister has promised a step-change in the government’s support for cycling, with David Cameron promising “a cycling revolution” back in 2013 when he launched the first wave of Cycle City Ambition funding.

While some cities and regions, including Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Birmingham, did benefit from significant sums to invest in cycling infrastructure, most of the country missed out.

Nationally, levels of funding remain woefully low, while a promised review of the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of road traffic offences launched back in Cameron’s tenure following campaigning by organisations including British Cycling and Cycling UK seems to have disappeared as time and energy at Parliament and in have been eaten up by Brexit for the past four years.

> Opinion: More money to come for cycling? 

If there is some hope for a brighter future, it’s that while Mayor of London, Johnson oversaw his own “cycling revolution” with the introduction of the capital’s first Cycleways, then named Cycle Superhighways, and does see cycling as an essential means of getting around towns and cities for everyday journeys.

However, the initial designs of those Cycle Superhighways, painted blue to reflect their sponsorship by Barclays, were strongly criticised by campaigners as providing minimal protection and also being dangerous in the wet.

Following a spate of deaths of cyclists in London in late 2013 and pressure from groups including the London Cycling Campaign and Stop Killing Cyclists, the approach changed, resulting in the high-quality infrastructure such as the two protected Cycleways that cross the centre of the city from east to west and north to south being built.

Influential in that change in approach was the journalist Andrew Gilligan, appointed earlier in 2013 as London’s first cycling commissioner and who must take much of the credit for the Cycleways subsequently built or olanned during what was left of Johnson's second term.

Last year, he was reunited with Johnson when he was recruited as transport advisor to Number 10 and one would expect him to be involved in the current planning of what will happen at national level.

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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22 comments

Avatar
andy1000 | 4 years ago
1 like

It's nice to hear positive statements about using bikes for commuting but it is always about the money as that really enables cycling to increase as good infrastructure makes people feel safe to ride. 
I wonder if the the last budget will be reviewed again to move funding to cycling infrastructure initiatives for the whole country, not just London. 

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2cb | 4 years ago
2 likes

Having read the comments so far, I am wondering why they're all written by chippy, leftist losers. Corbyn lost if you haven't noticed.

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Rich_cb | 4 years ago
1 like

Good to see the usual suspects out in force.

If the government fail to mention the promotion of cycling it's because they hate cycling.

If they mention the promotion of cycling it's because they're lying and they really hate cycling.

The cognitive dissonance is strong.

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brooksby replied to Rich_cb | 4 years ago
6 likes

Not really, we just don't trust the government  3

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eburtthebike replied to Rich_cb | 4 years ago
5 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Good to see the usual suspects out in force. If the government fail to mention the promotion of cycling it's because they hate cycling. If they mention the promotion of cycling it's because they're lying and they really hate cycling. The cognitive dissonance is strong.

No cognitive dissonance there; we've merely learned from experience.  Lots of experience.  Going back many years, and we know not to trust what any government says until the tarmac is laid on the 4m wide path that has priority over side turnings and is protected from people driving on it.

Rather the gulf between what is promised and what we get might better be described as cognitive dissonance.

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Rich_cb replied to eburtthebike | 4 years ago
1 like

So a man that actually delivered infrastructure and increased the modal share of cycling should be judged on his track record?

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ktache replied to Rich_cb | 4 years ago
5 likes

That track record also includes being sacked for lying, twice, the garden bridge and Jennifer Arcuri, with proper dodgyness and seeming coverups for the both of them.

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brooksby replied to ktache | 4 years ago
5 likes
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brooksby | 4 years ago
0 likes

Quote:

He added: “I urge the Government and boroughs to work with us to enable Londoners to switch to cleaner, more sustainable forms of transport – and reduce the pressure on other parts of our transport network – once the lockdown is eased.”

Its funny, but I interpret that as "Please can all the plebs get on their bikes so as to free up the roads for Important People".

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zero_trooper | 4 years ago
3 likes

'He added…'

another typical throw away line from our PM

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 4 years ago
5 likes

Gosh, so many pessimists in the comments below. Guess what? I'm going to join you. It's all total flibber flabber. If anything, these 'pop up' bike lanes (limited in scope mostly) will cause even more press 'rage' and public animosity towards people on cycles. No doubt people on cycles will be blamed for the recession and 'holding up the traffic'. 

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malcolmroywithers | 4 years ago
1 like

The money should be spent on providing front and rear cameras for all cyclists so that the crazy violence againsts cyclists carried out by motorists is finally stopped. I am regularly astounded at the treatment I get on the road when completely innocent! I cannot understand what is going on and why.

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jigr69 replied to malcolmroywithers | 4 years ago
3 likes

Front and rear cameras are only good if the local Police force are willing to accept them as evidence of law breaking. If you happen to be served by the Northamptonshire Police Force (Northamptonshire Pleb Farce), then forget it.

Having submitted video of a high speed close pass, nothing came of it. Chasing them up about it, they replied that due to data protection, they cannot tell me as a witness, anything about any followup. I did reply to say that I wasn't a witness but a victim in this, but they haven't replied back (that was six months ago).

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alchemilla | 4 years ago
5 likes

What I wished he'd said was, the 27bn announced in the budget for road building will now instead be spent on improving cycle infrastructure in every town and city in the UK. Much of it has probably gone instead to pay for crisis alleviation programmes so once again, no funding for cycling.

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billymansell | 4 years ago
8 likes

Didn't Johnson say last week that other countries would look in wonder at the apparent success of our Covid-19 response? How did that grandiose claim work out for him?

It's as if populist politicians just say what they think people want to hear.

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brooksby replied to billymansell | 4 years ago
3 likes

billymansell wrote:

Didn't Johnson say last week that other countries would look in wonder at the apparent success of our Covid-19 response? How did that grandiose claim work out for him?

It's as if populist politicians just say what they think people want to hear.

They do look at us in wonder. Just not in a good way...  3

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eburtthebike | 4 years ago
1 like

1710; some minister doing the covid 19 press conference has just said something similar; we're definitley doomed.

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eburtthebike | 4 years ago
7 likes

Boris the Liar “This should be a new golden age for cycling.”

We're shafted.

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handlebarcam | 4 years ago
8 likes

A handy rule of thumb is if Johnson says something it must be untrue. At the very least he has been proved to have lied too many times to trust him on any subject whatsoever.

More seriously, there may be a brief boost to cycling. But in the medium term there will probably be a vicious circle of people abandoning public transport, which will lead to a reduction in the quantity and quality of services, which will cause even more people to abandon it. Some of those might choose to cycle, but a lot will choose to drive, causing roads to become more dangerous. I can't see any government, least of all the Tories, limiting road space and car parking in response to those pressures.

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crazy-legs replied to handlebarcam | 4 years ago
7 likes

I can see them slashing fuel duty and giving a whole load of car / road based incentives to "get the country moving" and "kicksart the economy". MOre road building, incentives for electric vehicles...

They did that after the financial crash in 2008 except with diesel vehicles. That turned out well...

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CygnusX1 | 4 years ago
8 likes

I will believe it when I see it.

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zero_trooper replied to CygnusX1 | 4 years ago
1 like

Here, hold my white stick!

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