In a debate on cycling and walking in Parliament, Daniel Zeichner MP called on Highways England to up their game when it comes to considering the needs of active travellers. This follows the sudden closure of the Busway by Highways England during their improvement works, a busy walking and cycling route in the north of Cambridge, with only five days’ notice and diversion arrangements put into place which some have branded “poor and disorganised“.
Mr Zeichner said: “However good a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan might be, our major strategic roads are run by Highways England, and sadly its relationship with cycling is not as good as it should be. We heard evidence from the Office of Rail and Road that that is one area where Highways England certainly needs to improve.“
“Sadly, there are examples from my patch of Cambridge; one is from just a few days ago. People think of Cambridge as an exemplar, but Highways England does not seem to have noticed that if it shuts down a major cycleway but gives people only five days’ notice and does not provide proper diversions, people will be, quite rightly, very unhappy. Sadly, negotiations with Highways England over cycling-safe-and-friendly roundabouts and road junctions continue to be difficult. Although Highways England is good at building bridges and roads, it needs to be an agency not just for road building but for mobility. It really needs to improve its communications.“
Mr Zeichner also discussed the need for better Government support for new technology to aid active travel, like electric bikes.
He said: “ I have had my electric bike for four years, and it is transformational. A million electric bikes were sold in Germany last year; just 60,000 were sold in our country. By head of population, the Dutch are doing 25 times better than we are. Electric bikes are a simple solution to the transport crisis, so why on earth are we not doing better?“
“Although I welcome the improvements to the cycle to work scheme, that only benefits people who are in work, and many, many others need to be helped. The French offered a simple subsidy to encourage people and promoted it. My mantra for many months has been revoke and remain. It is now revoke, remain and recharge.“
The MP comments: “It’s just common sense to make active travel the most attractive option for people. Supporting safer cycling and walking infrastructure, and making it easier for people to buy bikes and ebikes, will only serve to aid our health, our environment, and our pockets! It’s disappointing that the Government haven’t put their money where their mouth is on this – we need them to get into gear and properly fund cycling and walking.“