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Taxpayer-funded e-bikes and bicycles on the NHS under £2billion drive to tackle obesity 

The Government is planning to subsidise electronic bicycles for pensioners and commuters as part of plans to massively increase cycling through a £2billion anti-obesity drive.

The e-bikes are like regular bikes but have a small motor usually hidden in the frame to aid travel uphill or on longer journeys.

Ministers hope the programme will help those who are less fit or older to get back in the saddle. 

They could be given up to a third off the £600 – £3,000 cost of a new machine to entice them to take more exercise or leave the car at home.

Mr Johnson launched the campaign in Nottinghamshire today, urging motorists to ‘be courteous’ towards cyclists.

The Prime Minister said drivers must understand they will be ‘sharing the roads’ as measures costing £2 billion are taken to promote cycling and walking.

Bicycles will be prescribed by doctors for patients and all Britons will be offered free training on how to ride.

Free repair vouchers worth £50 will be handed out and there will be a massive expansion of cycle lanes as part of a revolution unveiled today. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘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 subsidy for e-bikes comes on top of the Cycle To Work scheme which already gives money off purchases of cycles used to get to work, the Times reported. 

Boris Johnson announced that GPs in obesity hotspots will be encouraged to prescribe cycling, with patients able to access bikes through their local surgery.

Thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes and free cycle training for any child or adult will be offered under the Government’s ‘biggest and boldest plans’ to boost active travel.

The creation of the UK’s first zero-emission transport city and a dozen ‘mini-Holland’ schemes – which prioritise cycling and walking – will also form part of the revolution. 

Cyclists will be able to get £50 vouchers towards bike repairs from midnight tonight. 

Last night cycling charities welcomed the plans, which they say will ‘radically improve the quality of walking and cycling infrastructure’ in the UK.

Ministers hope the new measures will get people active and reduce pollution in towns and cities in a double boost to health. 

Unveiling the plans, Mr Johnson said it was time to ‘shift gears’ to boost active travel. 

He stressed: ‘From helping people get fit and healthy – and lowering their risk of illness – to improving air quality and cutting congestion, cycling and walking have a huge role to play in tackling some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face.

‘But 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. 

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.’

Today’s announcement comes a day after the Government launched its new obesity strategy to tackle the nation’s bulging waistlines. 

Officials are looking to seize on the surge in popularity for cycling during lockdown, which saw an almost doubling of those getting on the saddle.

The scheme will see more bike racks at rail and bus stations to encourage more people to commute to work. 

Other measures include strengthening the Highway Code, improving legal protection, increasing lorry safety standards and working with police and retailers to tackle bike thefts. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described it as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to create a shift in attitudes’ to make cycling or walking part of daily routines. 

He added: ‘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.’

An initial 50,000 Fix Your Bike vouchers will be made available online shortly before midnight tonight on a first come, first served basis. 

Those who obtain a voucher – at https://fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk – will be able to save £50 on the cost of repairing a bike at participating shops. 

The Government said the vouchers are being released in batches to help manage capacity and for the scheme to be monitored before being rolled out more widely.

Halfords has said it has thousands of slots available each day for customers to bring their bicycles into stores to identify potential faults which could be rectified under the scheme.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: ‘We think the Government’s Fix Your Bike voucher scheme will not only help individuals become more confident about keeping their bikes maintained, but will help speed up the cycling revolution.’ 

Official figures indicate there has been a surge in cycling during the pandemic, with bike usage nearly doubling.

Previous statistics showed that around six per cent of Britons over the age of 16 – 2.8million – ride a bike at least once a week.

Xavier Brice, of the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said today’s announcement ‘marks a big step forward’. He added: ‘By helping more people to leave the car at home for shorter journeys, this package of measures will cut pollution, tackle the causes of poor health and improve the safety of our streets.’

It is unclear so far where the first zero-emission city will be.

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