Boris Johnson’s ambitious plan to get Britons cycling has got off to a wobbly start, with the website offering bicycle repair vouchers crashing at launch.
As part of the prime minister’s £2bn scheme to boost active travel, the UK government has made 50,000 “fix your bike” vouchers available to be used for standard servicing and replacing components.
The website, fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk, was due to go live at 11.45pm on Tuesday night. However, initial efforts to access the site returned an “Error 404” message.
The scope of the problem quickly became evident as cyclists expressed their disappointment on social media.
The volume of complaints was such that the hashtag #FixYourBikeVoucherScheme became the number one trend on Twitter in the UK within 90 minutes of the site’s scheduled launch.
The website finally began working at about 4am, though some errors are persisting.
The vouchers were initially due to be available in June, but the Department for Transport (DfT) said last month they would be released only once maintenance shops could handle the expected increase in demand.
The £2bn investment, announced in February, also includes thousands of miles of new protected cycle lanes, cycle training, making electric bikes more accessible and creating the UK’s first zero-emission transport city.
Other measures include strengthening the highway code, improving legal protections, increasing lorry safety standards and working with the police and retailers to tackle bike thefts.
On a visit to Nottingham, Johnson said: “You always could spend more and this is the most ambitious package ever – it’s £2bn.
“What we will do is create thousands of miles of protected cycle lanes – I really believe that protected cycle lanes are essential to give people the confidence people need.Many people aren’t very brave or confident cyclists.”
He added: “What I also want to see is more work done to get motorists to understand that we are all going to be sharing the roads, going to be sharing it with cyclists, so be respectful, be courteous.
“Things have been improving but there’s still a long way to go.”
Labour’s shadow cycling minister, Kerry McCarthy, said: “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.”
DfT figures show there has been a surge in the popularity of cycling during the coronavirus outbreak.
Compared with the equivalent day in the first week of March, cycling usage nearly doubled over the weekend of 18-19 July. Monday 20 July 20 – the most recent weekday for which data is available – showed cycling at 146% of pre-lockdown levels.