Just how addicted workers in Preston are to their cars

Only one in six Preston workers currently walk or cycle to work, new figures suggest, as the Government pushes commuters away from public transport.

By Mike Hill
Friday, 15th May 2020, 3:45 pm
Just one in six Preston workers currently walk or cycle to work
Just one in six Preston workers currently walk or cycle to work

As the lockdown is gradually lifted and people head back to work, the Government has announced emergency funding and measures to make the roads more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly, including plans for pop-up cycle lanes and distributing bike repair vouchers.

New Office for National Statistics figures show that 17 per cent of people in Preston either cycled or walked to work in the three months to December – four per cent opted for a bike while 12 per cent took the journey on foot.

That is according to a survey of employment circumstances across the UK.

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The vast majority of people in Preston travelled to work by car or van – 77 per cent of those surveyed.

The ONS says the results must be interpreted with caution as there may have been a small sample size in local areas.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £250 million emergency package for England to boost cycling and walking, warning that public transport will only be able to cope with 10 per cent of usual numbers if passengers are to abide by the two metre social distancing rule.

Fast-tracked guidance published by the Department for Transport has told councils they must reallocate road space for significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

In a bid to encourage people to dust off their old bikes, vouchers will be given out for cycle repairs, while plans are under way for greater provision of bike-fixing facilities.

Separate figures from the DfT for 2018 reveal that three in 10 residents in Preston walk or cycle less than once per week, while 21 per cent do so less than once a month.

Across England, 61 per cent of adults said they thought it was too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads.

Nine organisations, including Greenpeace and the Transport Action Network, have written an open letter to the Government and local authorities calling for more action to promote walking and cycling.

They request wider pavements, protected cycle tracks, networks of low-traffic neighbourhoods, and the installation of bus gates, bollards and planters to limit traffic in residential and shopping streets.

The letter reads: "It would be completely absurd if, after the unprecedented efforts and sacrifices made to save thousands of lives from Covid-19, we allowed thousands more to be cut short by the devastating impacts of toxic pollution."

The Local Government Association welcomed the latest government announcements but said local councils must have “long-term certainty” around funding.

David Renard, LGA transport spokesman, said: “If we are to achieve a sustained increase in active and cleaner travel, councils need long-term certainty of infrastructure funding.

"Local control over infrastructure and public transport budgets would enable them to deliver the widespread improvements to promote more active travel."