Cycle-to-work is new UK mantra as Covid-19 toll crosses 31,500

Promoting walking and cycling to deal with the pandemic and later, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the shift will help create a greener economy as well as have a positive impact on people’s health and consequently lower the impact on the National Health Service.
The use of the Underground and trains during the pandemic has dropped substantially in London.(AP)
The use of the Underground and trains during the pandemic has dropped substantially in London.(AP)
Published on May 09, 2020 09:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

Creating dedicated walking and cycle paths is part of a £2 billion investment for a major shift in transport announced by the Boris Johnson government on Saturday, as the UK-wide death toll rose to 31,587 amidst moves to gradually open parts of the economy from Monday.

Promoting walking and cycling to deal with the pandemic and later, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the shift will help create a greener economy as well as have a positive impact on people’s health and consequently lower the impact on the National Health Service.

Johnson is due to announce a “modest” relaxation in lockdown rules on Sunday evening, but some plans have been leaked, including placing all visitors at UK ports, airports and Eurostar stations mandatory quarantine for 14 days from the end of May.

The new transport plan includes movement in city centres confined to walking, cycling or electric buses, besides creating pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.

Shapps said: “During this crisis, millions of people have discovered cycling - whether for exercise or as a means of safe, socially-distanced transport…(When) the country does get back to work we need those people to stay on their bikes and be joined by many more”.

“Otherwise, with public transport’s capacity severely restricted at this time, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked – holding up emergency services, critical workers and vital supplies”.

“We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities”, he said at the daily Downing Street briefing on coronavirus-related developments.

The plans include installing more charging points for electric cars, promoting the use of e-scooters, and a new ‘bike Tube’ network above existing Underground lines. The use of the Underground and trains during the pandemic has dropped substantially in London.

The plan to quarantine visitors sparked a row with the opposition Labour and critics demanding why thousands have been allowed into the UK without checks so far in previous months. The airlines industry warned of a crippling effect of the measure.

Lisa Nandy, shadow foreign secretary, said she had raised the issue of quarantine five times to prevent a resurgence of cases.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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