Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £2bn package to help increase cycling and walking capacity across the UK, as commuters face new challenges of getting to work during the coronavirus crisis.
Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors are set to be created in England within weeks as part of a £250m emergency active travel fund - the first stage of a £2bn investment, as part of the £5bn in new funding announced for cycling and buses in February.
Following unprecedented levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the pandemic, the plans will help encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport when they need to travel, making healthier habits easier and helping make sure the road, bus and rail networks are ready to respond to future increases in demand.
The programme will be published in early June with the aim of doubling cycling and increasing walking to work by 2025.
Commenting on the news, Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering said: “This is a welcome commitment by the government to investing in our transport networks for our post-Covid-19 economic environment. The pandemic will clearly be a catalyst for a number of changes in our society and how we travel will be one of them.
“I would urge the government to go further, however, as this announcement has not addressed the environmental impact of road and rail use which must be addressed if we are to meet our net zero targets. The way in which we move the bulk of our people and freight has to be decarbonised and whether we like it or not that will not be achieved unless we tackle cars and lorries. For all but short journeys, walking and cycling will not be an option for most people.
“To achieve this decarbonisation, we will need a strong engineering and consultancy sector that will be able to provide the strategic master planning and design advice for the development of our transport networks, but this very capability is under threat at the moment.
“To ensure that the industry can provide the government with the expertise it will need to meet is wider agenda, work must be brought forward now to allow the industry to function. I would urge the secretary of state to invest in the master planning work for how we decarbonise our transport networks now, so that when we emerge from the lockdown we can begin to build this new transport environment.”