THE councillor responsible for the county’s highways has said he believes the increase in cycling had been just a phase during the coronavirus lockdown following calls for more investment.

Councillor Alan Amos, cabinet member for highways at Worcestershire County Council, said proposed government funding needed to be handed out fairly to all forms of transport and not just cycling despite a spike in people using bikes during the lockdown.

“We have got to balance our priorities,” he told the council’s cabinet during the first virtual meeting of councillors on Thursday (June 4).

“There is a fundamental question here. Is what is happening temporarily now going to become permanent? The reality is that only one per cent of commuters cycle to work. Having said that, 11 per cent goes on walking and cycling.

“Our policy is to support all forms of transport.”

Worcestershire County Council will be submitting a bid to the Department for Transport with a hope of getting its hands on £1.3 million to create extra space on the roads for cyclists – including pop-up cycle lanes, pavement widening, safer junctions and bus-and-bike-only areas.

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Cllr Amos said public transport – particularly buses – was the only real alternative to using a car for many of the people in Worcestershire.

“We have to get people out of cars but my approach is to do it by encouragement not by forcing people – by closing roads or blocking off this or blocking off that,” he said.

“I do believe in freedom of choice and I do think people will weigh up what is in their own best interests in terms of how they travel to work or for leisure.”

Green councillor Matthew Jenkins said he was concerned that once the lockdown eased, people would give up using their bike because they saw Worcester as dangerous for cyclists.

“Lots of surveys have shown, particularly a YouGov poll, that 36 per cent of people would ditch their cars and go back to cycling and walking all the time, if it was actually perceived to be safe," he said.

Cllr Simon Geraghty, leader of the county council said councillors needed to take a “balanced and proportionate” approach to spending money on transport.

He said people, particularly those on furlough, had had more time and were under less pressure to use a car, either for travelling to work or drop their children off at school, during the pandemic.

Cllr Amos said the council needed to be, and had been, fair in how it distributed money for transport and he was sceptical of a poll saying a third of people would ditch their car for a bike.

“To be honest, I just don’t believe it,” he said. “Opinion polls have been wrong.”

“People will choose the best form of travel and cycling does have an inherent problem in the topography. I don’t see many people trying to cycle up London Road or Tolladine.

"People when they go to work, do they want to arrive soaking wet or sweaty?

“It’s nothing philosophical, it is just what is as practical as possible."