Cycling prescriptions, mini Hollands and £50 bike repair vouchers part of new health drive for England

Boris Johnson's new health drive for England will see people receive £50 vouchers to have their bikes repaired, while GPs will be able to prescribe cycling to people in disadvantaged areas.

With obesity a huge risk factor in coronavirus patients, the PM has announced "the most ambitious package ever" of £2 billion, to increase cycling and walking with the creation of thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes to come alongside cycle training for any child or adult.

This will come on top of a planned pilot for GPs in areas with poor health rates to start prescribing cycling, with patients able to access bikes at their local surgery.

As part of his fitness "revolution", the prime minister wants to emulate the Dutch love of cycling by funding 12 new areas to become more biker friendly, known as "mini-Hollands".

Mini-Hollands will receive intensive, transformational spending on their roads and streetscapes "to make them, over time, as cycle and pedestrian-friendly as their Dutch equivalents".

And anyone with a broken cycle will be able to have it fixed, with the government providing £50 repair vouchers to encourage people to get back on their bike.

The first 50,000 will be available to apply for just before midnight on Tuesday 28 July on a first come first served basis, with vouchers limited to a maximum of two per household.

In a video filmed by Number 10 and released on his Twitter account, Boris Johnson admitted he was “too fat” when he was struck down by coronavirus.

He said his own brush with Covid-19, which saw him require intensive care in April, convinced him of the need to tackle Britain’s bulging waistlines.

On Monday he announced a raft of new measures to curb people's intake of junk food.

His new fitness plan aims to "build on the significant increase in the number of people cycling" during the pandemic.

Mr Johnson said he wants motorists to "understand that we are all going to be sharing the roads, going to be sharing it with cyclists, so be respectful".

During his visit to Nottinghamshire the PM took a bike ride to promote his new health drive for the UK. Credit: PA

His cycling revolution for England follows his work as London Mayor to introduce bikes-for-hire, also known as 'Boris Bikes'.

The PM's £2 billion "long term vision" to increase active travel will also see thousands of miles of protected cycle routes be built in towns and cities.

"To build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels," the prime minister said.

“That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel – so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”

Mr Johnson also wants to "make streets safer" to encourage cycling and walking.

As such, he plans to improve legal protections for vulnerable road users, raise safety standards on lorries and work with the police to tackle bike theft.

Also part of the plan is a new initiative to increase access to e-bikes by setting up a new national e-bike programme to help people who have to travel long distances or are less fit.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the coronavirus crisis had presented ministers with a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to "get more people choosing to cycle or walk as part of their daily routine".

“The measures we’ve set out today in this revolutionary plan will do just that. No matter your age, how far you’re travelling, or your current confidence on a bike – there are plans to help and support you," Mr Shapps said.

“By helping to fix your bike – or get an electrically powered one; by increasing storage space at stations, on trains and buses; and by introducing more ways to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe, we’re making it easier than ever to make active travel part of your daily life, and leading England to become a great cycling nation.”