A £2 billion ($2.5 billion) package to put cycling and walking “at the heart of” Britain’s post-coronavirus transportation plan has been announced by UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announced. The idea is to reduce crowding on public transport and gridlock on roads.
While Shapps said the measures would contribute to a greener and healthier recovery in the wake of the pandemic, he also noted that with a two-meter social distancing rule, there is only capacity for one in 10 passengers in many parts of the public transport network.
“Moving beyond Covid will be a gradual process, not a single leap to freedom, so when we do emerge the world will seem quite different,” he said in a daily Downing Street press briefing. More cycling and walking presents a “health opportunity” for people to become fitter and improve their physical and mental health, he said.
Across the North Sea, meanwhile, bicycles are prioritized over cars in the Netherlands, and the Danish capital Copenhagen is one of the most cycling-friendly cities on the planet. In 2016, 41% of trips to work and school in Copenhagen took place on bicycles; the city’s goal, by 2025, is 50%. At rush hour, parents navigate major roads with kids in their bikes or cycling beside them. There’s a famous “traffic playground,” where kids under eight go to learn to ride a bike in a mini-version of the city, with traffic lights and pedestrian walkways and other urban features.
According to one study, 76% of Danes feel safe biking; in London, 96% reported feeling unsafe out on the roads.
Data suggests this plan will be an uphill battle. According to Cycling UK, cycling accounted for 1.7% of all trips in 2018, a figure that has barely changed for at least 17 years. While 16.7% of people cycled or walked to work that year, two-thirds drove or took a taxi. Cycling made up only 1% of the mileage accumulated by all vehicular road traffic.