Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, I was pleased to see a huge increase in the number of people taking up cycling – with many bike stores reporting a surge in sales.
Cycling is beneficial in many ways, both for the environment and people’s health. Keen to build on this enthusiasm for cycling, the Government announced a £2billion cycling and walking revolution, setting out a comprehensive, long term vision to increase cycling and walking.
To help improve safety and encourage more people to get on their bikes, cycle training will be made available to anyone who wants it, accessible through schools, local authorities or directly from cycle training schemes. In addition, the Government is consulting on changes to the Highway Code to better protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Higher standards for cycle infrastructure have been published to make sure that schemes are better designed around cyclists’ needs, and to make sure that they can support a larger number of cyclists in the future.
Also, so that more people can make cycling part of their commute or daily routine, additional cycle racks will be installed at transport hubs, town and city centres and public buildings, and funding will go towards new bike hangars and on-street bike storage.
As people dust off their old bikes, a certain amount of servicing may be required to make them safe to ride. Earlier this week, the Government announced its Bike Repair Voucher, giving cyclists £50 towards repairs for their bikes. There has been a significant amount of interest in the vouchers, so the Government is releasing them in batches, with the first 50,000 being snapped up quickly on Tuesday.
Swindon has some fantastic cycle routes, such as the Eastern, Western and Southern Flyovers – which were made possible thanks to a £3.75million investment from the government via Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. I hope these new measures will encourage more residents to take up cycling and make the most of our wonderful local routes.
The Government also announced this week that we are well on track to reach our target of recruiting 20,000 new police officers by 2023.
I am pleased that we have recruited 4,300 new police officers towards this target since launching this major £750 million recruitment drive in September 2019. This is the largest annual increase in officer numbers since the early 2000’s.
Our police officers do a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances, and they need our backing to do their work efficiently and effectively. As such, I was pleased that we have introduced a number of measures to help them with this, including doubling the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers to two years, boosting police funding by £1.1 billion this year, equipping over 8,000 more officers with Tasers to keep themselves and others safe, and giving them enhanced stop and search powers to tackle knife crime.
It has also been great to see so many shops re-open, and I have been very impressed with how they have adapted, and the measures they have put in place. I am also pleased to see that most people are wearing their masks in shops, this is an important factor in the fight against COVID-19 especially as from Saturday those who had been at high risk from coronavirus will no longer be advised to shield, so this will help give them the confidence to return to normality, a much needed boost for our local shops, pubs and restaurants.