Encourage cycling and walking after lockdown, UK mayors told

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Boris Johnson uses call with regional leaders to stress importance of keeping cars out of city centres

Boris Johnson has told regional leaders to encourage people to commute on foot or by bike to help avoid a dramatic increase in car use when lockdown guidelines are partially lifted.

The prime minister spoke on Friday afternoon with the “M9” – the group of mayors covering areas including Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and North Tyneside – to hear their concerns and outline the government’s latest position.

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World news | The Guardian

Boris Johnson has told regional leaders to encourage people to commute on foot or by bike to help avoid a dramatic increase in car use when lockdown guidelines are partially lifted.

The prime minister spoke on Friday afternoon with the “M9” – the group of mayors covering areas including Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and North Tyneside – to hear their concerns and outline the government’s latest position.

It is the first time Johnson has spoken directly to regional leaders since the beginning of the pandemic. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, is the only mayor to have attended the emergency Cobra committee meetings.

Previously, Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, has raised concerns about the lack of contact between central government and regional leaders, and called for more involvement and inclusion in crucial meetings.

During the call Johnson emphasised the mayors’ importance in the next phase of the response, as well as updating them on the government’s strategy.

Jamie Driscoll, the Labour mayor for the North of Tyne, said Johnson, along with the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, seemed particularly keen to get people out of their cars when the lockdown is lifted.

“It was very interesting that the prime minister was talking about taking the opportunity to push clean, green travel, active travel, cycling infrastructure, and getting cars off the road,” Driscoll said.

“The real risk is that you end up with a situation where people go back to work in their cars, into city centres that are not designed to take that amount of traffic, that congestion makes it harder for buses to get through and you end up with this vicious cycle. We will be coming out of a crisis involving a virus that makes it very difficult for people to breathe. The last thing we need is a man-made equivalent.”

Driscoll said Boris made the link between green travel and reducing obesity.

“Obesity is a massive issue and also a very expensive issue, because it does cause a lot of us, as we get older, to spend many years when we can’t be that active. It’s just speculation – and far be it from me to comment on the prime minister’s physique – but maybe having just been through it [Covid-19] he has had a Damascene conversion.”

The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said the message from the mayors was that all regions stand ready to play a full role in the recovery.

“The point is that we have got the capabilities and structures to lead our economies through this because the country works as a big set of regional economies,” he said. “The prime minister fully accepted that point and he gave his utter commitment to continuing the principles of levelling up and devolution as part of the way we lead our way through this recovery.”

The mayor of the Sheffield city region, Dan Jarvis, welcomedJohnson’s commitment to work closely with mayors.

“We must build on these constructive discussions to ensure mayors have a strong mandate to transform our economy and society,” he said. “We must seize the opportunity to build a better Britain – not just recovery, but renewal. I will be working with the government and fellow mayors to deliver for our communities. It is needed now more than ever.”


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