Boris Johnson’s ambitious plan to get Britons back on their bikes may have hit a stumbling block, with huge demand resulting in the vouchers running out within hours - but more will soon be available.
The scheme got off to a rocky start, with the website offering bicycle repair vouchers crashing at launch and remaining unavailable for several hours.
As part of the Prime Minister’s £2 billion scheme to boost active travel, the government has made some 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 only an “Error 404” message.
People trying to access the website on Wednesday morning were told it was unavailable due to "extreme volumes of traffic" and would remain offline whilst action was taken "to improve performance for users".
The website was eventually repaired, only for all available vouchers to run out.
Vouchers are released gradually reflect the capacity of the bike repairers signed up to the scheme and more will be available "as soon as possible", the website said.
The Department for Transport has been contacted for a response.
The scope of the website's teething problems quickly became evident as cyclists took to social media to express their disappointment.
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 vouchers were initially due to be available in June, but the Department for Transport (DfT) said last month they would only be released once maintenance shops could handle the expected spike in demand.
The £2 billion 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, Mr Johnson said: “You always could spend more and this is the most ambitious package ever – it’s £2 billion.
“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.”
The £2 billion investment was announced in February.
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 cycling following the coronavirus outbreak.
Compared with the equivalent day in the first week of March, cycling usage nearly doubled over the weekend of July 18/19.
Monday July 20 – the most recent weekday for which data is available – showed cycling at 146% of pre-lockdown levels.