WED, JUN 03, 2020 17:04
Campaigner urges government to include cycling statisticcs in daily briefings to encourage people into the saddle
Chris Boardman has warned that “decisions made in the next two weeks will set the transport agenda for the next two decades” as the government introduces further easing of the lockdown in England, and has urged the government to include cycling statistics in its daily briefings when highlighting changing travel patterns.
Writing in Monday’s edition of The Times, the former world and Olympic champion cyclist, who is now Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner and policy advisor to British Cycling, has urged the government to include cycling statistics in its daily briefings, saying: “If cycling really counts, it’s time to count cycling.”
Boardman wrote: “While public transport use has dropped by more than 90 per cent since lockdown began, and car journeys by 60 per cent, cycling has risen.
“Last month there were a record 170,000 extra bicycle trips in Greater Manchester in just one day. That’s the equivalent of 1,950 tightly packed double decker buses — or thousands more if social distancing measures were in place.
“It’s a similar picture across the country. Why, then, are cycling statistics excluded from the daily ministerial briefings?”
The government has urged people to cycle or walk where possible while commuting to alleviate pressure on public transport and avoid the inevitable gridlock that would ensue if all car-owners returned to driving.
“Cycling is central to the back-to-work strategy,” Boardman acknowledged, “but ministers risk sending mixed messages if statistics for trains, buses and cars are presented each day, but not bicycles. The data is out there, officials just have to prioritise gathering it.”
In Greater Manchester, the city region where he is helping transform active travel, data including cycling is published, and the results are startling, as shown by this graph.
He welcomed the £250 million emergency fund for active travel which is enabling councils across the country to install temporary cycle lanes, but insisted that “The public needs to see, day in and day out, that the government regards cycling as a viable option.”
Boardman continued: “About 40 per cent of trips are under two miles, so an increase in cycling is entirely practical. It’s also socially just. One in four households have no access to a car. These people would normally rely on public transport to get to work, but that option will only be available to about 10 per cent for the foreseeable future.”
His warning that time is running out echoes one that he made at the end of April, but as the government’s plans to ease lockdown start to be implemented, the situation now is particularly finely balanced and there are fears that the opportunity for active travel could be lost.