21 June 2020
The Covid 19 lockdown has had a major impact on cycling in the UK. With the roads a lot quieter people have been dusting off bikes they have not used in a while, weekend cyclists are now using theirs to commute to work and people are buying one for the first time. An unusually enlightened action at the start of lockdown was to include cycle shops and repairers as essential businesses that could stay open.
There has been much talk about promoting cycling in Greater Manchester and our Cycling & Walking Commissioner, Chris Boardman, is now having an impact with his Beeline network plans. Yet how do we capitalise on this sudden boom in cycling?
In the short-term there is funding for pop up cycle lanes. Nine local authorities in GM are on board with this with Oldham having plans for an Oldham Way down into the centre of Manchester. The problem is that Manchester City Council is not taking part so wrecking these plans.
For further development we need more funding to implement the Beeline network with more separate cycle lanes. (1) We need more secure cycle storage in town centres and other locations as the prospect of bike theft can deter people. Grants for e-bikes on the same scale as electric cars would help those of us living in the hillier parts of the borough to get into cycling.
There also needs to be more thought given to how cycling integrates with public transport. For people commuting longer distances by tram or train should be encouraged to get to their stop or station by bike. This will mean sacrificing some parking spaces for secure cycle storage; those built so far are fully utilised.
To benefit our health, improve air quality and tackle the climate emergency, this is an opportunity that must not be missed and Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority must seize it.
1 Green Party has been calling for an emergency fuel duty rise to invest in walking, cycling and public transport. Oil prices are at a global low and fuel duty has been frozen for 10 years. An extra 25p/litre could raise in the region of £12bn for public transport and active travel. See the Green Party press release 8 May 2020 in News on the national Green Party website: https://www.greenparty.org.uk