Local authorities need to prioritise the way road space is used in the immediate future, focusing on cycling and walking, Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport told the Transport Committee yesterday.
When asked about the rise in traffic levels to 70% of pre-covid levels and the fact that people are being told to avoid public transport-leading to more people driving, Mr Shapps said that the short term focus should be on protecting the public transport system as the UK moves out of lockdown and that people should walk, cycle and drive using public transport as the last resort.
“In the short term, the most important thing is protecting the transport network so it is only used by those who need to, and so we can maintain social distancing,” he said.
In May the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £2 billion investment programme for cycling and walking with £250 million for local authorities to quickly implement temporary pop-up measures to help with social distancing. “I think we have done this with some success. We have seen a more than 100% increase in people cycling during the height of lockdown, but the trick is to keep this going, which requires more than the large sums of money we are putting in. It also requires a change in culture.”
“What makes people cycle is it being easy to grab a bike, and the space to cycle. I was pleased to see immediately a number of local authorities reacting to this, such as in London the new cycle lane along Hyde Park. We have been working on being able to speed this us, and the chances are we have been pretty successful.
“We want to make sure we are re-prioritising the way local authorities use road space; we want cycling and walking, and possibly e-Scooters, at the forefront, then driving as the second option.”