The Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) has put forward a bold package of measures to senior political figures and officials, as the Government considers a possible easing of lockdown measures.
The BA is urging the Government to act swiftly to ensure that as many commuters as possible who normally travel by public transport or car, switch to cycling as the best, safest alternative, when they are once again able to travel to work. If instead, ‘normal’ car use levels were to be boosted by former public transport users avoiding buses, trains, tubes and trams, there would be massive gridlock.
As the nation looks towards the easing of current Covid-19 restrictions, the spectre of gridlock looms large, with concerns about using public transport likely to be high with the public.
The key element of the BA’s package must be Government funding and guidance for pop-up bike lanes and other low-cost ‘instant’ infrastructure changes to create safe, protected and extensive networks for people who are doing their bit to keep cities moving by using their bikes to get to work and for other essential journeys.
Many will be first time users of bikes for transport, and a safe, comprehensive network of cycle ways is essential if they are to continue to get around by bike – freeing up road space for emergency services and other absolutely essential motor traffic.
Steve Garidis, BA Executive Director, said: “Feedback from the cycle industry is that 7 out of every 10 customers at the moment are new or returning cyclists. Their eagerness to get out on two wheels and enjoy the reliable transport, healthy exercise and low-cost mobility that cycling offers depends heavily on the roads being, and feeling, safe to ride. That’s why the BA believes it is essential that the Government steps in to ensure that across the country, urgent measures are taken to make cycling for transport feel safe, and with enough road space to ensure social distancing can be properly maintained.”
The BA has therefore presented the Government with a package of measures which could be swiftly implemented. The key elements of the BA’s proposal are:
- That the Government provide funding, guidance and leadership to local authorities so that they can make rapid, wide-scale changes to their local roads to enable people to cycle safely from home to work and to other destinations such as high street shops. This should include extensive networks of ‘pop-up’ bike lanes, closing roads to through car traffic, and reallocation of road lanes to create space for cycling. We urge that a network approach be used in planning these interventions, so that whole journeys can be completed safely by bike.
- Provide and promote a zero VAT “holiday” for all bikes, e-bikes, and cycle repairs. This will send an immediate message to consumers that the Government is using all levers available to promote using bikes as we emerge from lockdown.
- Although around 68% of daily trips are under 5 miles and so usually practical by conventional bike, many more (around 83%) are under 10 miles and, for these, e-bikes are perfect. An e-bike may also be helpful for a shorter, hilly journey, or simply to make the ride easier. But e-bike prices are still an obstacle for many people, so the BA proposes a short-term £250 per bike purchase grant to help overcome this. Similar schemes have been very successful internationally.
- As more bikes are being taken out of garden sheds and put to work to keep the country moving, people may find repair bills significant. The BA urges rapid implementation of a £50 per customer voucher scheme for repairs, like the scheme recently introduced in France. Ensuring that cycle servicing is as affordable as possible will help keep those new riders safe.
- Extending the Cycle to Work scheme, through which employees can affordably buy bikes through salary sacrifice, to the self-employed and other groups.
- To boost safety, the Government should fund the provision of adult “refresher” cycle training across the country – both to promote good riding and to boost the confidence of people who may not be used to riding in cities.
- There have been many recent reports of cycle thefts from outside hospitals, depriving NHS workers of their transport home after long shifts on the front line. To address this, and to prevent the same situation for other employees who are helping to ease gridlock concerns by cycling to work, funding and planning easements should be put in place immediately to assist employers to provide secure cycle parking for their workers.
Interest in cycling and walking as ready solutions to the restricted availability of public transport, and limited road space, has never been greater. The BA has stressed to Government that there is a brief window of opportunity to make the changes necessary to allow cycling to play a very significant role in keeping our cities moving.
Steve Garidis said “Bold actions which would have been almost unthinkable before this pandemic are now a logical necessity. I just can’t see any realistic alternative to putting in place effective measures to enable mass cycling, if we want to keep cities moving while public transport remains restricted. And the time to act is now, ahead of traffic levels rising as lockdown eases.”