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Boris Johnson unveils £2bn fund to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes as part of anti-obesity drive

Boris Johnson has unveiled a major new fund to improve access to cycling

3 min read

Boris Johnson has unveiled a new £2bn fund to build thousands of miles of protected bike lanes in an effort to drive down obesity.

The Prime Minister said the multi-billion pound fund is the "biggest and boldest plan" to improve the uptake of cycling and walking as part of a "long-term vision" to improve the health of the nation.

The announcement — branded a "re-announcement" by Labour — forms part of a major push to reduce obesity and will be combined with new bans on junk food advertising and displaying calories on menus in pubs and restaurants.

Under new pilot plans, GPs in England will be given the ability to make bikes available on prescription for overweight patients, with a new national e-bike system being set up to provide opportunities for older people or those less fit.

Meanwhile, a new inspectorate will be set up to help build thousands of miles of protected cycle lanes in towns and cities with plans to overhaul the Highway Code in a bid to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.

Unveiling the scheme, Mr Johnson said the plans would help deliver a "healthier, more active nation".

"From helping people get fit and health and lowering their risk of illness, to improving air quality and cutting congestion, cycling and walking have a huge role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face," he said.

"But to build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels.

"That's why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel - so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling."

The funds will also be used to develop 12 new cycle friendly areas, subbed "mini Hollands", with further plans to reduce traffic around schools and quiet neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, a new bike repair pilot scheme is set to be launched on Tuesday, providing 50,000 people with vouchers worth £50 to encourage people to get their old bicycles repaired.

Ministers said the vouchers would be released on a first come served basis, with more vouchers to be released later in the year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the "revolutionary" plans would make it "easier than ever" to encourage people to take up cycling.

"We've got a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shift in attitudes for generations to come, and get more people choosing to cycle or walk as part of their daily routine," he said.

"The measures we've set out today in this revolutionary plan will do just that. No matter your age, how far you're travelling, or your current confidence on a bike - there are plans to help and support you."

But Shadow Cycling Minister Kerry McCarthy said: "It’s been five months since the Government first announced this funding for cycling in the Spring Budget, three months since Shapps’ cycling press conference and yet again all we have is a re-announcement."

The Labour frontbencher added: "Tory Ministers have dragged their feet and failed to seize the opportunity this crisis has posed. Although funding is welcome, cyclists will be rightly concerned about how long it is going to take to actually put these plans into practice.

“No one wants a return to the levels of pollution and congestion we saw before the lockdown began, but, if we fail to make our roads safe enough to cycle, people will revert back to taking the car.”

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