The move promises a surge in minor works for local authority highways and streetwork firms who will be asked to mark out pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors in England over a matter of weeks.
This will be financed with a £250m emergency active travel fund – the first stage of the £2bn investment plan to boost walking and cycling in response to covid 19 social distancing public transport constraints.
The government said it would fund and work with local authorities across the country to help make it easier for people to use bikes to get around – including Greater Manchester, which wants to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and Transport for London, which plans a “bike Tube” network above Underground lines.
Fast-tracked statutory guidance, published over the weekend and effective immediately, tells councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.
Shapps said that in towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists.
More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.
“The government expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel,” he added.