The UK is on the cusp of a £2bn cycling revolution – and Cheltenham can be part of it.
During lockdown, all of us, cyclists and non-cyclists alike, have discovered what it is like to have Cheltenham streets where you can breathe clean air, hear the birds singing at noon, and walk or ride in safety. We have all noticed the safety on our roads with fewer cars hurtling past down the Prom or Lansdown Road, or near our homes and schools.
The Government’s plans, backed by a £2bn package of funding, have been hailed by British Olympic champion Chris Boardman as “the biggest step forward for active travel that I have seen in my lifetime.”
Among the key measures are the creation of thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, cycle lessons for all who want them, vouchers for bicycle maintenance, national funding for e-bikes and the raising of safety standards on lorries.
Cheltenham, as a relatively flat town, is well placed to benefit from all this. But it will require common sense from local planners. To keep public support, councillors must steer clear of bizarre schemes like the Up Hatherley cycle way near Morrisons. Crucially too the guiding philosophy must be pro-bike, not anti-car. Parents with young children or people with disabilities who need their cars mustn’t feel bullied out of our town centre.
As well as the environmental benefits, we urgently need active travel to improve our health. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity – and type 2 diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £25,000 a minute nationwide. Excess weight also puts people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
So now is the moment for Cheltenham councillors of all parties to come together and deliver a transport revolution for our town. The funding and political will is there.
I urge them to make decisive progress.